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Downed giant oak in Auburn highlights Placer County tree care, safety issues

Tree toppled Tuesday on High Street, forcing evacuation of one home and crushing a pickup
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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The toppling of one of Auburn’s largest oak trees in strong winds is raising questions about the safety of other big trees located near homes. Many of Auburn’s stock of large oaks and other trees have branches that hover over homes, providing shade and esthetic beauty to properties. But those positive feelings can come crashing down – as they did Tuesday, when a valley oak estimated at 80 feet tall gave way and fell onto a High Street apartment building’s parking lot. One resident was cut slightly by a falling limb and a pickup was crushed but there were no serious injuries. Certified arborist Anthony Dinatele, owner of Anthony’s Tree Service, was working with a crew to cut up the fallen branches Wednesday and bring down the remainder of the tree that had stayed erect, wedged against a 52-year-old home. Dinatele said he’s passed the tree in the past and often thought that more could be done to preserve it and keep it from falling. But he never dropped in to express his concerns and was now working on an $11,000 tree-removal job covered by insurance. “It could have been fixed,” Dinatele said. The tree could have been braced by mechanical supports and then selectively pruned to remove some of its heaviness, he said. Dinatele estimated the tree’s age at around 125 years old and the amount of wood removed at close to 20 tons. High Street in front of the apartment and residence was closed for much of Tuesday evening as a safety measure but was open again Wednesday. Nicole Harrison, a certified arborist with Auburn’s Abacus, said one of the major flaws in the oak that fell was what is called a “co-dominant leader.” The tree basically had two trunks growing from its base and when one came down, the other became structurally unstable. “When the tree was little, one should have been cut off,” Harrison said. Older trees can be expected to drop some of their limbs but also have to be closely watched to ensure that roots aren’t rotting because of improper watering or branches aren’t becoming infested with bugs, she said. Harrison said that with the proper attention from a certified arborist, larger trees don’t have to be a source of concern over falling limbs. “Just because there is a large limb over your house doesn’t mean that it’s in danger,” she said. John Husing of Auburn said that he misses the shade but doesn't miss the worries attached to a prized walnut tree. The 100-year-old tree was removed because of safety issues. "I was concerned because the limbs were starting to snap," he said. "It cost a bunch to have it done but I felt better afterward."