BANGOR — The ice storm has left virtally every street and road in eastern, central and southern Maine with its share of broken trees, hung-up limbs and snapped branches.
Among the trees hit hardest by the storm are silver maples, willows and box elders.
This could be a banner year for tree services and nurseries. The owners of local tree services say that it will be months before the most pressing tree problems are resolved. It could be as much as three years before all the trees damaged by the ice storm are trimmed or cut down.
“I’ve never seen damage this extreme,” said Bill Spaulding, a licensed arborist who has operated Crimson King Tree Service in Bangor since 1974. “So many streets look like a bomb hit.”
Licensed arborist Bill Berman, who owns Forests By Design in Old Town, said that though he usually has enough work at this time of year to keep busy, the ice storm has prompted a flurry of work orders.
The ice storm, however, also has presented opportunities for shady characters to make a quick buck.
In recent weeks, there have been complaints of people posing as utility workers who have attempted to collect exorbitant fees for tree work that real utility companies do for no charge.
Some homeowners also have been visited by chain saw-wielding workers, who have been going door to door with offers to do tree work for less money than would be charged by a licensed and insured arborist.
While cutting fallen trees limbs into manageable chunks or hauling them away requires little technical know-how, tackling trees and limbs near power lines or buildings is an entirely different matter.
Homeowners should never attempt to prune or remove trees near utility lines, said Chuck Gadzik, director of the Maine Forest Service. That work is best left to the experts.
If removing or pruning hazard trees yourself, use the proper safety gear and have safety training, Gadzik said. If you lack either, you should consider hiring a professional.
“I would encourage people to seek those licensed to do the work first — as opposed to some guy in a pickup with a chain saw offering to cut down that 50-foot elm near your house,” says David Spencer, a lawyer with the Attorney General’s Office assigned to the Professional and Financial Regulation Department.
Though the prices quoted by unlicensed workers might sound right, Spencer said, the chances that these workers carry the proper insurance is remote.
Should an uninsured tree feller get hurt on your property — or cause a tree to crash through the windshield of your car or onto the roof of your house — you, the homeowner, could be left holding the bag, said Spencer.
Though relatively few people know it, arborists are among more than 30 types of professionals who must be licensed in order to work in Maine.
According to Cheryl Hersom, administrator for the state Aborists Examination Board, arborists are qualified to diagnose, trim and fell ornamental and shade trees, including trees near utility lines and buildings.
To be licensed in Maine, arborists must be at least 18 years of age, pass a written test, show proof of insurance, and show knowledge about the tools of the trade.
Gadzik said that individuals unable to obtain the services of an arborist might consider consulting a certified logging professional. He said these workers are trained to take down trees in difficult situations, and have had safety training as well. Only licensed arborists may leave the ground to work on trees or remove limbs.
Homeowners who are considering hiring professionals for help with problem trees should consider the following precautions:
Ask to see an arborist’s license. Licensed arborists carry wallet cards marked with the state seal.
Ask to see proof of liability insurance. Berman said that liability insurance is typically issued for individual jobs. Copies can be obtained by fax.
Know what you’re getting for your money. Exactly what work will be done? Will stumps be dealt with? Will waste wood be removed or left at the work site?
Make sure trees really need to be cut. Gadzik says many trees bent over by the storm could bounce back as the ice melts.
If the job is expected to be expensive, consider asking for references or several quotes from different companies.