The Cambrian

Kathe Tanner: Calls to tree action

Kathe Tanner writes for The Cambrian.
Kathe Tanner writes for The Cambrian.

When a tree falls in Cambria, then what? Who do you call? What do you do first? Is there a way to salvage something good out of the loss?

If the falling tree sliced through your house, your first concern is to make sure nobody’s hurt or assist anybody who is, and then protect your belongings and your home.

Understandably, you’re thinking “Get that tree off my house or out of the road!” So you might call a tree service. Cambrians are blessed with several good ones.

But if the tree blocks a roadway, has hit or taken down utility wires or landed on your home, officials say your first call should be to 911.

Emergency services need to know where the trouble spots are.

Our fire station often converts into an emergency-communications center—a clearing house for emergency, utility and road crews. They’re dispatched by radio to assess each situation and assign it to the proper agency or utility-repair service.

That can be vital for public-safety reasons.

The crews are trained to identify which wires are which and block off danger zones, so nobody gets electrocuted. Road crews open up evacuation routes. And if a tree has hit a house, county inspectors must check it out and tell you if it’s safe for you to be inside.

Sometimes, not having a downed tree “on the list” can be a matter of life or death.

Late on Jan. 20, after the wind-and-rain onslaught, 911 dispatched medics to help someone with a health problem.

The rescuers’ couldn’t get through on the most direct route because downed trees and branches blocked the road.

Nobody had told officials about the blockage. If they had, emergency crews could have taken an alternate route in. As it was, the stopped-up roadway delayed their arrival.

It wasn’t a life-threatening situation that time…but it could have been.

If you care about Cambria’s forest, you should attend a meeting of the Cambria Forest Committee, which needs your support to get its forest management plan in place and

functioning. The next meeting is 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 10, at Rabobank, 1070 Main St.

When our Monterey pine fell in the meadow Jan. 21, the 100-foot giant took down two other trees and seriously scraped another.

The falling trunk also wedged tightly in the Y of another tree, nudging it sideways. The nudgee—a tall, aging pine that’s tilting

toward Pineridge Drive— now poses a threat to neighboring houses, walkers and drivers.

After Tim Radecki’s chainsaw session Jan. 23, the pressure was off the standing tree. But the pine’s shallow root system likely was loosened or compromised, increasing the risk that it could go over in the next big blow.

Fortunately, on Jan. 26, tree inspector Amber

Krebbes and her gentlemanly associate Abel Sanchez (who work for Davey Tree Service but assess tree threats for PG&E) agreed the failing tree is a potential hazard.

Amber ordered her crew to top the leaning pine down to where what’s left won’t endanger lives or power lines.

Concurrently, other Davey workers were removing three of our other trees, dead ones that another PG&E’s contract inspector had determined were threatening utility wires.

As the cutting began, our friend Mike Rice asked the Davey guys to cut the large, straight trunks into longer logs than usual, at least 16 feet long.

Why? Because, in a fine example of oversized recycling, Don Seawater of Pacific Coast Lumber in San Luis Obispo soon will recycle the logs by milling them into lumber for furniture, shelves, walls, docks and more.

He’s been doing that since late 1994 when I first wrote about his salvaging service, and he has built a nice reputation for giving our beloved trees a second life beyond firewood or big bags of chips.

His mill is one of the only ones in the Western U.S. that’s doing this successfully, Don said, and now he’s leading how-to seminars on the East Coast.

How successful is the concept? “There’s some recycled Cambria pine in the backyard of the director of ‘Shrek,’” he elaborated, “and more of it on the shoreline of Rosario Harbor/Orcas Island, Wash.”

That beats mulch any day.

Contact Don Seawater at 441-5422 or e-mail him at

E-mail Kathe Tanner at ktanner@thetribunenews. co m. Read more “Slices” at