PG&E Tree Trimming Reducing Fire Hazard Or Creating It?

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Some residents who get electric power from PG&E say the utility is actually causing a hazard by leaving pruned branches and cut trees on their property.

PG&E examines power lines on private property once a year to make sure trees don’t catch fire from power lines and that falling trees and branches don’t cut power.

Branches cleared from around power lines are typically left at the property.

“The wood is actually owned by the property owner. It’s not the property of PG&E, so we typically don’t remove it from the site,” PG&E spokesperson Brandi Ehlers said.

PG&E also doesn’t chip and remove dead branches because chipping dried material can also create a fire.

Auburn homeowner Michael O’Malley says that can be a hardship for older residents who may need more options.

“Pay PG&E a little more to do it or have them haul off all those branches and stuff and chip it somewhere else,” O’Malley said.

But O’Malley also says he has no problems with PG&E’s practices because rural homeowners on several acres like him are used to clearing brush and debris.  He uses the tree debris for firewood and says PG&E tree contractors do a pretty good job.

Others say they have to pay people to have that debris removed in order to reduce fire hazards.

PG&E says it’s up front with homeowners about what happens to trimmed trees and will work with homeowners to find a solution. Ehlers says often that will be to cut and spread branches along the ground to mimic naturally fallen branches as long as it conforms to forestry safety standards.

There are also programs in several counties to collect fallen trees for firewood for the elderly.

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