How to Cut Down Trees Near Power Lines

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Cutting trees is never easy, and under power lines it is downright dangerous. If unwanted growth, storm damage or another problem requires the removal of a tree on your property, be sure to perform the task safely and effectively. But you should never attempt to cut tall or large trees near electric lines.

Things You'll Need

  • Saw or chainsaw
  • Safety glasses
  • Ear protection
  • Snug-fitting clothing
  • Steel-toed shoes
  • Hardhat
  • Chainsaw chaps if available
  • Heavy rubber work gloves
  • Non-conductive rope
  • Notify the power company if you need to remove a tree that may interfere with electric lines when it falls. The company will send someone to cut the tree. If you know the tree won't fall on electric lines and are sure you can safely cut it yourself, proceed to Step 2.

  • Consult a tree-cutting safety manual or online resource such as this guide from North Dakota University (http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/ageng/safety/ae1025w.htm) to refresh your knowledge of proper chainsaw safety procedures.

  • Do a complete "walk-around" of the tree. Look for problems like severe leaning in one or more directions; bent, rotted or twisted limbs that may fall prematurely or cause unpredictable changes of direction as the tree comes down; large or lopsided branches that could weight the tree more heavily on one side. Plan an escape route in the event the tree suddenly tilts in an unexpected direction. Clear away debris, rocks or other obstructions to your escape path.

  • Move all people and pets far away from the tree before beginning your first cut. According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, everyone should be at least two tree lengths away from the cutting site, and no one should be located downhill from it.

  • Cut off all limbs that can be safely reached before felling the tree, especially large or awkwardly placed limbs that may interfere with the felling direction you have chosen. Never cut limbs over your head or while standing on a ladder or other elevated platform.

  • Place a non-conductive (for example, polypropylene) pull rope around the trunk of the tree as high as possible above the level where you will be cutting. Have an assistant hold the other end--well away from the danger zone--to help guide the tree away from power lines as it falls.

  • Follow standard chainsaw procedure to make your cuts. Cut in the direction the tree leans if possible. The first cut should be at a 45 to 60-degree angle no more than one-third of the way into the trunk. Make your second cut on the same side, lower and as flat as possible to intersect the bottom of the first cut. You will have a wedge-shaped section of wood cut from the tree. Make the final cut on the opposite side of the tree, even with or slightly above the flat cut on the other side. Cut through to the other side, but leave a ½ to 1-inch hinge of wood to help the tree fall in the proper direction. Clear your saw away from the cut and get away from the tree before it falls.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you have a wood-burning stove or fireplace, cut the limbs and trunk into appropriate lengths and stack out of the weather for seasoned wood when winter rolls around. Attract wildlife to your yard by creating brush piles from branches for small mammals and birds to hide or roost in. Leaves and small twigs are beneficial additions to your compost pile.
  • Felling trees is dangerous. Do not attempt it unless you have expertise in using a chainsaw on standing trees. Never operate a chainsaw while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or when fatigued. Avoid cutting on windy days. Always use non-conductive tools and wear rubber gloves while working near power lines.

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