I declined to take on a tree removal and it fell the same day.

colb

Well-Known Member
I rarely decline tree work - maybe 5-10 times over my 5.3 year career. Today, I showed up to estimate a removal that would require rigging off the tree and a TIP in an adjacent tree with a 1/4 dieback in the upper canopy. After quite a bit of consideration, I decided to decline and refer it to a tracked bucket company. The client notified me at 7:30pm that it fell down. I did not show up and say "nope"! I looked at it for a few minutes and thought "you know, if you line up a hundred trees like that, there is a good chance one of them is going to fail if you rig something from it." Turns out, I was right.

22" diameter laurel oak with excellent spring leaf flush, two dead ~6" diameter limbs in the crown, pileated woodpecker excavations on 1/4 of the diameter extending 20 feet from base upwards, and same area with hypoxillon canker. 50° lean. My thoughts were that that much lean made the tree reliant on its structural integrity, which appeared compromised to at least 1/4 degree. The TIP in the other tree was unattractive - I would have been almost horizontal with respect to it, and the TIP crotch had both live and dead branches emanating from it. I would have been climbing with a breakaway-rated caribiner on my lanyard. Rigging the tree off itself seemed unpleasant. When I added it all up, it just didn't add up. I guess it bothers me that I added it all up instead of immediately identifying that I didn't want to take it on...

I also had a client call this morning with a failed water oak on her driveway - 1/2 internal decay of trunk at break zone, not visible from outside except for a slight increased diameter.

These two failures bother me because it's not windy or wet out there, yet shit's falling. Does anyone have any learning points they would share? Why didn't I look at it and say "nope" right away?
 

oldoakman

Well-Known Member
Haven't quite had that scenario but similar and the season is young. Dont know what the remainder of the year will bring. Be safe and alert.
 

Bango Skank

Well-Known Member
Why didn't I look at it and say "nope" right away?
I think almost anyone is going to try to examine all of their options before turning down work. Especially if there's other trees around that might offer tie in and rigging points. Ultimately you made the right decision and live to fight another day.

Customer should've called years ago. Estimates are (usually) free, and they could've picked your brain a little about what to expect from the tree in the future.
 
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CanadianStan

Well-Known Member
1- Routinely sounding trees that present both healthy and unhealthy has helped me learn a lot about what might be hiding

2- Instead of viewing that secondary TIP as a TIP, you could have used it to guy the main tree back, adding additional mechanical integrity to a failing tree. Just an idea of viewing that 2nd tree as a structural aid instead of a positioning backup

3- Trust your gut. 5.3 years is a long time, and your body and brain register a lot of information subconsciously about trees and their states.

Also, 50º degree lean? daaaaaaaaamn
 

colb

Well-Known Member
Trees fail under static loads if a dynamic load doesn't get to them first. Gravity never takes a coffee break. That flush of new foliage may have added significant static load to already badly compromised architecture.
Very good point, Richard. Does anyone know percent change in weight between late winter and spring trees?
 

colb

Well-Known Member
Doing a 'thump test'...know what I mean?...can tell you a LOT! Get in the habit of thumping, make an assessment, do the removal and see if your assumption met reality.
I think it would have barber chaired if I thumped it, right? :LOL:

And, doesn't the pileated woodpecker thump test better than I do? If he/she says it's a quarter dead, that's pretty accurate to me. It was carving along a defined dunce cap-shaped polygon.

Isn't thumping kind of a rough pursuit? I thump frequently on assessments and I get information from it that indicates a positive for bad wood, but a "negative" for bad wood doesn't rule out bad wood, right? I guess your point is that I could have added that to the assessment I did, which is true. However, I still would have been considering taking it under contract rather than immediately identifying it as a no-go...
 

colb

Well-Known Member
1- Routinely sounding trees that present both healthy and unhealthy has helped me learn a lot about what might be hiding

2- Instead of viewing that secondary TIP as a TIP, you could have used it to guy the main tree back, adding additional mechanical integrity to a failing tree. Just an idea of viewing that 2nd tree as a structural aid instead of a positioning backup

3- Trust your gut. 5.3 years is a long time, and your body and brain register a lot of information subconsciously about trees and their states.

Also, 50º degree lean? daaaaaaaaamn
Your #2 is a very good point. If I had identified it as an immediate hazard and guyed it yesterday I could have prevented that incident.

Yeah, the overall lean was 50° above the horizon. It started out just 10° lean off vertical at the base of the trunk, then banana-ed out sideways for about 75 feet, terminating horizontally above the neighbor's pool. I do not know the cause of failure yet - rootball breaking/uplift or trunk breaking.
 

Jehinten

Well-Known Member
I think it would have barber chaired if I thumped it, right? :LOL:

Clearly this tree was on the verge of going over. Could you imagine doing a thump test and that was the final push to failure. Striking a tree with a mallet leads to you being responsible for the damages when it falls on a structure. How do you explain that to your insurance agent?
 

colb

Well-Known Member
5% or 50%
Your gut told you to walk away, and walking was the right decision.
Almost all of my decisions to walk away result from a bad vibe about a potential client, not the tree.
I hear you. These clients were good vibe clients. It was clearly the tree that I declined.
 

colb

Well-Known Member
Customer should've called years ago. Estimates are (usually) free, and they could've picked your brain a little about what to expect from the tree in the future.
My sense is that this developed relatively rapidly, so I think they noticed when the woodpecker got busy - the excavations looked recent as the wood was not discolored and the tree looked otherwise fairly normal aside from the dead canopy branches. The two laurel oaks were adjacent to each other at the base, both with fresh pileated woodpecker excavations and the leaner with associated biscogniauxia (hypoxylon) canker. I checked two other laurel oaks nearby and did not see any further signs. I feel like they were reasonably responsive to the circumstance and seeking to be good neighbors.
 

cerviarborist

Well-Known Member
Very good point, Richard. Does anyone know percent change in weight between late winter and spring trees?
I can't imagine that there's any hard and fast percentage, giving consideration that precipitation, soil type and condition, health of the individual trees vascular system and myriad other data points would have to be taken into consideration to evaluate the significance of the way spring leaf-out has impacted the risk-of-failure of any given single tree.

I was taught that in tree risk assessment that you have to consider that you're actually viewing two different trees superimposed over each other. The symplastic tree.. all the living components, and the apoplastic tree..all the non-living, but structurally important (and dense/heavy) components. The condition of one, bears scant if any relation to the other.
 

colb

Well-Known Member
I went back to estimate the debris removal today. The "thump tester" contingent was right. One inch of sapwood, and punky through the middle.

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colb

Well-Known Member
Btw, does anyone else think this might be a lightning strike? See the excavation pattern on the adjacent tree? Narrow spiral...
 
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