On Saturday, May 20, five tree care professionals and a crane operator worked for nearly 13 hours to remove an 80-foot-tall Silver Maple tree from a property in Harrisburg.
The 80-foot tall tree with an 80-foot canopy spread was estimated to be about 125 years old, but it needed to be removed because it had been deemed hazardous to a house beneath it.
Our arborists routinely work with trees that are 80, 90 and even 100 feet tall, but this tree’s unusual diameter and weight posed unique challenges.
“An 80-foot tall tree is nothing out of the ordinary,” said Fred Schrom, manager of our Carlisle office. “The 73-inch diameter is easily triple the size of a normal tree that we would deal with.”
Schrom explained that the single largest obstacle the crew faced was the tree’s proximity to the house below. When a Silver Maple tree reaches that size, its branches can extend 30 or 40 feet, which makes the individual branches larger than some full-sized trees. The result of even a single branch falling from 80 feet in the air could be catastrophic for the house sitting below.
“And with a tree like that, it would have been impossible – absolutely impossible – to do it without a crane because of the size of the wood and its proximity to the house,” he said. “You couldn’t drop it. There was a flower garden and a fence right at the base.”
The crew used a massive 100-ton crane – a step up from the 28 to 40-ton cranes we typically use – to move well over 100,000 lbs. of tree. The tree was hauled away using a tractor trailer and four standard log truck-loads.
Schrom said that the tree was actually surprisingly healthy and had very little decay in the middle, which would be expected in a large trunk like this one. While the tree may have been healthy in the sense that it was getting all of its nutrients “from the leaf to the roots,” arborists also have to consider a tree’s structural integrity.
In this tree, one of the main leaders – a primary division in the trunk of the tree – had a 36-inch by 36-inch cavity in it. This cavity, combined with its canopy that overshadowed the house, created a hazardous situation that couldn’t be repaired.
“Perfectly ‘healthy’ trees can have deficiencies in their structure that could cause them to fall over with or without any wind,” he said. “And that was the case here. That big cavity could have failed at any time. Just because a tree is green does not necessarily mean it is safe.”
To further complicate things, on the other side of the tree was a parking lot that is used for business during the week, so the crew had a small window of time to complete the project over the weekend.
“When you have a crane involved, it goes much quicker,” he said.
But even when working quickly while 80 feet in the air, safety comes first.
He added: “Safety measures are the same whether you are 10 feet off the ground or 110 feet off the ground.”
“Everything went as well as planned, and with a tree like that, that’s probably to say that it went better than planned,” said Schrom. “The guys did a heck of a job.”
The Cumberland Valley Tree Service – Landscaping team even caught the attention of the local news.