Mitigating Hazards Before They’re Dangerous

Recently we’ve had several cases where clients called us to have a worrisome dead tree removed, and when our arborist arrived to give an estimate, we’d discover that the tree had been dead for a very long time. The most recent case was a birch tree tucked away in a back yard, surrounded by garden structures and dozens of potted plants. The tree stood roughly 50 feet high, and was so bone-dead that the tips had already fallen off long ago. You could actually look at a point halfway up the trunk and see a rotten hole that passed straight through the tree, so that you could see through the trunk to the sky beyond. Our challenge was to climb up this crumbling ruin and find a way to bring it down without harming the client’s house or surrounding structures.

If the tree had been taken care of years sooner, while the wood was still solid, the operation would have been quick and painless. But after years of neglect, the tree was in such poor condition that we could not safely climb it, and the slightest stress from a roping system would have brought the entire top crashing down — likely with the climber plunging along with it. Ultimately we had to remove a section of the back fence and dismantle a whole garden patio so that we could drive our 60′ bucket truck into the yard and remove the tree piece by piece. It was a lot of time, labor, equipment, cost, heartbreak, and possible catastrophic injury and/or property damage that could have been avoided had the client acted sooner — and it was lucky that we could access the tree with the bucket truck at all. Most back yards are utterly impenetrable, and in those cases, the options are slim.

And dead trees aren’t the only hazards that are often left too long. Just in the past week we took down a gigantic double-trunked Douglas fir, whose trunks were in imminent danger of breaking apart. To climb it safely, we first had to strap the trunks together to keep them from splitting during rigging:

Splitting Double-trunk Douglas Fir

The trunk inclusion made a severe weak spot roughly 10 feet down the length of the tree where the two trunks joined, and the union was filled with rot and water. If a winter storm were to come through and tear the tree apart, all they would have wanted for Christmas was a new half of a house for their next door neighbor.

There are many reasons why such pressing work gets put off for years and years until it’s almost too dangerous to be done. Sometimes money is an issue. Sometimes a renter has a property owner who is slow to act. Sometimes a homeowner is unfamiliar with tree hazards and simply doesn’t know how much of a problem a tree has become until it’s almost (or entirely) too late. Some clients even love their trees so much that, dangerous as they may be, removing them becomes a painful decision. But whatever the reason, we’d like to remind everyone that hazard trees never get better with time. The longer you wait to remove a dead or dying tree, or to reduce weight on an overgrown tree that you want to keep, the worse the danger and hassle will become, both for you and for the arborists performing the work.

Don’t wait too long to have important work done on your trees, especially now as winter weather approaches. If something looks hazardous, remember that it never hurts to get a free consultation and estimate from one of our friendly expert arborists.

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