Communities and homeowners throughout California have experienced serious damage to trees due to harsh winter weather and heavy snowfall. After a storm, it’s common for people claiming to be “tree specialists” to show up at residents’ front doors offering their services to remove or repair damaged trees.
Contractors seem to come out of the woodwork after a storm and are often inexperienced and not qualified – or licensed – to properly care for trees and their damage following a storm. Many such individuals have little or no training, and sometimes take little interest in removing anything but money from the pocketbooks of unsuspecting residents.
CAL FIRE and the Arbor Day Foundation are urging homeowners to avoid becoming victims. “Make sure you are dealing with a reputable individual or tree care firm when you contemplate repairs or removal of any trees on your property,” said John Rosenow, president of The Arbor Day Foundation. “Legitimate arborists rarely go door to door to solicit business.”
The following guidelines should help you find qualified tree-care specialists:
• Make sure they’re part of an established business in the community or nearby area and are listed in the phone book, usually under Tree Service.
• Demand evidence that they’re actually working for the company, not moonlighting.
• Ask for a California Contractor’s License or a Timber Operator’s License, including current certificates of insurance showing that they’re fully insured for property damage, personal liability and worker compensation.
• Ideally, they should be members of a professional association of arborists such as the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA), or the American Society of Consulting Arborists (ASCA).
• If possible, get more than one estimate to ensure that the price quoted is competitive with that quoted by others for the same services.
• In the case of tree removal, clarify who removes the limbs and debris from the property, and whether or not the price includes stump removal and cleanup.
• Check to see if the estimate has considered the possible value of your tree as logs, firewood or chips, either to yourself or if sold to others.
“Above all, don’t be pressured into making immediate decisions by “tree specialists.” Do your homework and make sure they’re qualified,” said Thom Porter, staff chief of Resource Management for CAL FIRE’s Southern Region. “It is important to take the time to select a qualified tree professional to safeguard your trees and save you from the long-term consequences of using the wrong contractor to clean up after a storm.”
Many cities require arborists to be licensed and will maintain lists of firms and individuals so registered. Residents can check with the forester who cares for public trees in their communities. Sometimes this is a function of the county or city’s parks department or public works department. For more information on CAL FIRE’s Resource Management Program or to reach a state forester, visit www.fire.ca.gov.