Rocky Mountain Power provides regional tree-trimming service near power lines

Wednesday , May 30, 2012 - 9:57 AM

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Kelsey Dayton

LANDER, Wyo.-- Years ago, one of the trees on William Reed's property succumbed to Casper's high winds, tipped into a power line and caught fire.

"It didn't cause a disaster, but it didn't do any good," he said.

Reed's nine acres host up to 300 trees and four power lines. Fortunately for him, the downed-tree incident was a rarity.

Rocky Mountain Power crews visit his property every few years to trim trees near power lines.

It's a free service the company has offered since the early 1990s, said Randall Miller, director of vegetation management with Rocky Mountain Power. In some ways it's a service that's existed, although by different companies, since the invention of the telegraph, he said.

Every spring, the utility reminds customers it offers tree trimming near power lines, said Maria O'Mara, external communications manager with Rocky Mountain Power.

"This is the time of year when you are kinda cleaning up the old and planting the new," she said.

People should always check for power lines before working on a tree. Electricity can move through the tree and create an electrical path to the ground and into a person or equipment, she said.

If a person's trees are near a power line, they should call Rocky Mountain Power to handle the pruning, she said.

Tree trimming is already a dangerous activity, Miller said. Arborists work at heights with power tools and heavy objects and near high-voltage power lines.

"It requires a great deal of skill," he said.

Work crews receive extensive training in electrical hazards. Of the 22 employees in Wyoming who work on the Rock Mountain Power tree trimming crew, seven have gone on to become certified arborists, Miller said. The advanced certification is not required.

"For our program, it brings credibility," Miller said.

The tree trimming service includes all Rocky Mountain Power customers. The company trims trees for an estimated 2,500 customers each year in Wyoming, Miller said. It's an effort to keep people safe, he said.

Thousands of volts of electricity run through the lines.

"We don't want them working in proximity to high voltage," he said. "People get killed."

The company also offers the service to protect the trees. Proper pruning protects a tree's health and can also prevent branches from falling and injuring people, property or power lines.

Workers routinely visit homes to prune trees, Miller said. Residents already included in the cycle don't need to call and schedule appointments, unless there is a tree that is about to fall over.

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