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B.C. woman on hook for cleanup costs for removal of tree near power lines

A Castlegar resident says FortisBC never forewarned her that the tree was going to be cut down.
A Castlegar resident says FortisBC never forewarned her that the tree was going to be cut down. Global News

A B.C. woman is on the hook for cleanup costs after a large tree on her property deemed too close to power lines was cut down last week.

Leigha Hamelin of Castlegar says she was shocked when she came home last Wednesday to find a tree service company cutting down the tree on the edge of her downtown property.

Worse, she said, was that the work crew hired by FortisBC left the mess behind and that she has to foot the cleanup bill.

READ MORE: Tree near power lines chopped down without permission, mess left behind, says B.C. woman

A single mom with two small children, Hamelin said she asked the tree service company about cleanup costs, and was told the price would be about $200 an hour, with time ranging between two and three hours.

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Hamelin says she looked on FortisBC’s website and found information that said prior to taking down any tree, they make contact with the homeowner, then take the danger tree down in a safe manner.

“I was not notified,” said Hamelin. “Nobody told me what they were doing.

“There was no talk or discussion about when the tree was going to come down or when the tree was going to come down.”

In a four-paragraph email to Global News, FortisBC said “we regret that the notification was unclear.”

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It continued, saying, “when we fall a dangerous tree, we lower the owner’s cost by half which is at least $1,000. We also make the area safer and eliminate the risk of much higher costs should the tree come down on its own and cause injury or property damage.”

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Fortis added it “can only cover the portion of the cost that keeps the public safe, as these costs are absorbed into the rates that all customers pay. The tree debris is still the property of and responsibility of the property — just as the tree was before it was felled. Some tree owners actually prefer the wood is left behind for their use.

“We work to let property owners know of our intention to take down a hazardous tree in a variety of ways, such as marking trees in advance and providing owners with contact information if they have questions. It sounds like in our efforts to keep the public safe in this case, we needed to be more clear to the owner of the dangerous tree.

“It’s an area we’re striving to do better.”

FortisBC says it removes trees to prevent possible damage to its power lines and gas lines.
FortisBC says it removes trees to prevent possible damage to its power lines and gas lines. FortisBC

After the incident, Hamelin posted photos on social media. The post, as of Tuesday, had more than 300 comments and more than 300 shares.

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Hamelin said many posted that the same thing happened to them as well.

“For me, this is something that Fortis should look at,” said Hamelin, adding if they can fund or partially fund having a tree cut down, why can’t they pay or partially pay for its cleanup as well?

“I understand that it’s on my property, and 100 per cent get that,” she said. “But if they had said, ‘Hey, we’re coming on Wednesday morning at 10 a.m.,’ it gives you time [to prepare].”

READ MORE: FortisBC to drop natural gas prices for most B.C. customers in 2020

Hamelin said she still would have been upset over losing the tree, but proper notification would have allowed her to get ready and set money aside.

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