A Warfield couple is thanking their lucky stars that no one was hurt when a tree crashed down on their property early Saturday morning.
Garth King was sleeping at 1:30 a.m. but his wife Mary Feit was still awake when she heard a loud crash. In the King’s backyard, laying haphazardly on their patio umbrella and table, a spot the couple was sitting earlier that evening – were several downed branches.
Even scarier was the live electrical line that came down with the cracked limbs – it was arcing back and forth, sparking a small fire and waving dangerously close to a shed that houses fuel.
The pair did exactly what FortisBC says to do – stay away from the line and call for help.
“We phoned 9-1-1, the fire department came up and put out our tree and Fortis showed up and eventually shut down the line,” King told the Trail Times on Monday.
“But if the fire had gotten into the shed it would have been more than just a few cedar trees that went up,” he added. “If you see where it fell, if there was anybody outside our house or sitting in the sundeck area, the tree landed right on our umbrella and chairs, it could have been much worse.”
King has lived on the Wellington Avenue property for 18 years. He’s called the village with concerns about the trees a number of times – but says the matter has fallen on deaf ears. Now King is hopeful the weekend incident will finally garner attention, maybe even ignite some action.
“It’s been an ongoing thing about the trees up above our house,” he said. “The trees are unsafe as far as I see it, but nobody seems to want to do anything.
“Hopefully things will change a bit now that this has happened.”
He’s since phoned a village official and had a conversation with public works, the latter replying that a works crew would be sent to the site.
“I left a message for the mayor and haven’t heard anything yet, but it’s a holiday,” he explained.
“I phoned the village and they did say a crew would be up there and some of the trees will have to go – and I hope they aren’t just saying that,” King continued.
“This has been an ongoing thing that nobody wants to do anything about. So now if something isn’t done I am going to make a lot more noise, because something has to be done or somebody is going to get hurt.”
And when it comes to trees and power lines, who is ultimately responsible for tree care and removal?
“Part of our maintenance routine is to inspect all of our lines for trees,” says Nicole Bogdanovic, FortisBC corporate communications advisor. “We have a vegetation management program in place to identify hazardous trees and remove them from our right-of-ways and lines.”
Beyond that, it is the land owner’s responsibility to remove dangerous trees from their property.
“It does cause some confusion because they feel FortisBC should take care of dangerous trees on their property,” she explained.
“There are some situations where we will cover the expense of downing the tree but the actual tree removal remains the property owner’s responsibility,” she added.
“But safety is our first priority, if we learn about a tree that is at-risk with our lines we would work with the property owner whether that’s a municipality or private property owner, to work out a solution for that tree.”
She reminds anyone who finds him/herself in a situation like the Kings, to stay back at least 10 metres (30 feet) from a downed line even it it doesn’t look active.
The incident can be called into 9-1-1 or directly to FortisBC’s 24 hour emergency service at 1.866.436.7847.