As you might imagine, trees and power lines don’t mix very well. You’ve more than likely experienced the inconvenience of a power outage due to a tree falling on or just touching a utility line. An isolated incident involving just one tree limb can cause wide spread power outages that can last for hours. Not only is this inconvenient, it can also turn into a life threatening situation. When power gets knocked out during the extreme temperatures of winter or summer, the elderly, and those with severe health issues, could succumb to the cold or heat.
There is also the potential of a fire anytime a tree contacts a line or transformer. The contact by a limb often causes arcing. Arcing is the sparks you might have seen when a tree gets blown into a power line due to a violent storm. If arcing occurs when the surrounding vegetation is dry, there’s the possibility of a widespread wildfire originating at that point of contact. Not only will you and your neighbors be without power, you will also be forced to deal with a fire that could destroy your property. This is why it’s so very important to inspect the power lines and transformers on your property and neighborhood. Even though utility companies perform inspections on a regular basis, the more help they get the better.
Though public safety and protection of the power grid are the main priorities, the health and well being of the tree that’s being pruned is also a consideration. Most utilities require the company that does the tree pruning to use the standards specified by the American National Standards Institute. Properly trained tree pruners using the standardized methods established by ANSI insure that trees are properly trimmed back from utility lines.
Pruning can encompass anything from complete removal of the entire tree to preventative trimming that removes dead limbs that could fall on a power line to directional pruning that removes limbs growing toward a line thus allowing the entire tree to grow away from the power line. Once a tree is removed entirely, a new tree can be planted with a low growing habit. This will prevent future interference with the power line while maintaining the urban or rural forest and green spaces.
If you have a tree in close proximity to a power line on your property, you shouldn’t do the work yourself unless you’re certified to do the work. The process of removing limbs and trees from around power lines is extremely dangerous. Just one lapse in concentration or cutting a limb in the wrong way could result in severe injury or even death.
Communication between the property owner and the utility company is a key aspect of preventing the possibility of a fire or power outage. If you see a potential problem of a tree that might fall on or even touch a power line, contact your utility company immediately. Even if the potential for such a problem looks fairly remote it’s still a good idea to err on the side of caution.