Crews in Smithville hustle to remove trees near power lines

Bluebonnet Electric crews take down dangerous trees (KXAN)
Bluebonnet Electric crews take down dangerous trees (KXAN)

SMITHVILLE (KXAN) — Wednesday afternoon, Bluebonnet Electric and contractors continued to remove trees in danger of falling onto power lines. Workers still have 1,100 trees to bring down and are trying to work as fast as they can before the rain moves in.

“Any of those trees that fall, hit that line, and we have a fire source on the ground and we have an outage going back the other way,” said Mark Rose, General Manager for Bluebonnet Electric.

He showed KXAN News examples of where 40 foot pine trees are near power lines and could cause major problems if they fall. Bluebonnet said they learned from the 2011 fires, even though the Hidden Pines Fire was not on the same scale as the earlier fire, to be aggressive and have more arborists in the field.

They would put tags on trees that need to come down immediately.

“We simply can’t take either the moral or legal liability of leaving a tree an arborist has said is probably going to die and at some point in time fall on an energized power line, we just can’t do that,” said Mark Rose, General Manager for Bluebonnet Electric.

Rose said he knows not everyone is happy about taking down trees, including some that look okay, but he said they’re taking the advice of tree specialists.

“If we have to choose between making one or two folks mad over something that could endanger hundreds, well that’s the way that decision is going to be made, ultimately it becomes my call, but I’m very firm about that,” said Rose.

Conditions are still dangerous for crews because smoldering, and ash pits where tree stumps burned.  Bluebonnet said crew members have to be careful because the covered holes can be waist deep.

“We had a job the other day, we had to haul all the limbs about 40 to 50 feet up an embankment,” said James Jordan, a crew manager for Bluebonnet Electric. “That’s just something we have to do because we couldn’t get any vehicles down there or any type of equipment to get it out.”

There are 17 crews working in the burn zone and they’re working fast because there is a concern about the soil getting lose because of the projected rains.

Workers also to have to follow guidelines like not stacking logs because of the endangered Houston Toad.

If you see a tree that looks unstable or in danger of falling on a power line call 800-949-4414.

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