After giant tree topples, an even bigger clean-up job

- The clean-up continues in Seminole Heights where a massive live oak came crashing down this week. The towering tree has five large trunks that all split apart, causing damage to three separate properties.

A team of eight workers spent the day slowly and carefully cutting up and clearing away the enormous toppled tree, using chainsaws, a crane, and other heavy machinery.

The goal was to remove the splintered wood and heavy trunks without causing any more damage.

“When a tree has fallen like this, it's actually more dangerous to remove then one that's standing,” offered Pete Fernandez of Pete & Ron’s Tree Service.  "When we cut it, things are shifting and twisting and moving, so it's a very dangerous operation."

Until some thunderstorms rolled through the area Wednesday, the grand live oak was one of the biggest in Tampa.  Property owner Frank Roder believes it was likely 200 years old.

"I’ve seen that tree go through several hurricanes, never had a problem.  I was shocked.  I kind of thought that tree would be around forever,” he told FOX 13.

It may have looked healthy, but arborists tell us below the five trunks, the giant tree was rotting and had a weak base.

"You can see, if you look at the trunk of the tree, where the decayed wood is,” Fernandez explained.  “Plus it had what's called co-dominant trunks which actually tend to grow together and push that apart."

Across the city, live oaks are one of the most common trees. They provide shade, keep your energy bills down, and can even make your property worth more money.  But the sweeping canopies of the historic hardwoods do come with risks as the trees age.

"The best thing that a homeowner can do with their larger, older trees is to have them inspected on a schedule,” advised Eric Muecke, the urban forestry manager for Tampa Parks and Recreation. “And for a large tree like a live oak or a laurel oak, that should be approximately every five to seven years.”

Those assessments can help spot red flags, identify what branches should be cut back, and other ways to keep the tree healthy and you free from unhappy surprises.

It can cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars to have a tree removed, and you usually have to get a permit from the city.  

Muecke recommends calling a certified arborist for the job.

"Make sure that they've been in business a good long time,” he continued. “Ask for their insurance papers, make sure that they are a high-quality business."

LINK: Find an arborist at TreesAreGood.org

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