Trees and Power Lines in Calgary – How to Stay Safe

Trees and Power Lines in Calgary – How to Stay Safe

Reading time: 6 minutes

Where towering trees and power lines cross, there’s a spark waiting to ignite. And it’s most certainly not the kind of spark you want to see. Mixing tree care with electricity might sound like a hair-raising adventure, but it’s one where safety truly needs to take the lead.

If trees in your Calgary home are near power lines, make sure you’re aware of all safety guidelines and follow them to the letter.

So, let’s shed light on the safe ways to prune, plant, and care for trees that share their space with Calgary’s electric grid.

Green Drop worker on a tree near a power line

The Hidden Dangers of Nature and Power Lines

When trees cozy up to power lines, the dangers aren’t always in plain sight. Electricity has some invisible hazards and unpredictable behaviours that make this combination particularly risky.

Invisible Hazards

It's a common misconception that power lines that are down or appear inactive are safe to approach or handle. However, they can unexpectedly transmit electrical currents.

Conductivity and Grounding

Electricity is a cunning traveller, seeking paths through conductors like water, the ground, and, yes, even trees. When a tree limb comes into contact with a power line, it can turn the tree into a conductor.

Unpredictable Electrical Arcing

This phenomenon occurs when electricity jumps through the air from power lines to nearby conductors like ladders, tools, or even humans, who may not be in direct contact with the line. The unpredictable nature of electrical arcing adds a layer of risk to handling tree maintenance near power lines, as it can occur without warning.

Planting New Trees Near Power Lines

When it comes to planting trees, choosing the species and location isn't about aesthetics anymore. Here’s what you need to keep in mind:

Choosing the Right Trees and Location

It’s not recommended to plant a tree when power lines are overhead. You want to select species that have a mature height that is short enough not to tangle with the lines.

  • Trees up to 2 metres tall, like hedges, can be planted 1 metre from wires and poles.
  • Don’t plant anything closer than 5 metres.
  • If the trees are within 7.5 metres of a power line, it’s best to plant or grow low-growing trees.
  • Shorter, compact trees are ideal for areas under or near power lines, reducing the need for frequent pruning and minimizing risk. Species like crab apple, hawthorn, and certain varieties of oaks, which typically maintain a manageable height and spread, are excellent choices.
  • Tall trees like spruce, birch, pine, and maple should be ideally planted about 15 metres away from power lines.
  • Always refer to growth charts and expert recommendations when selecting a tree for planting near power infrastructure.

Long-term Planning

Planting a tree is planting for the future. Consider not only the current landscape but also how the tree will interact with its surroundings as it grows. This foresight involves recognizing potential risks, such as increasing proximity to power lines and the need for future maintenance.

Planning should also account for the tree’s root growth, which can disrupt underground utilities and sidewalks if planted too close.

Green Drop worker cutting a tree near a power line

Maintenance Guidelines for Trees Near Power Lines

Routine Trimming and Care

Regular maintenance, including timely trimming and pruning, is essential to prevent trees from becoming safety hazards.

Trees growing near power lines should be trimmed regularly to prevent contact with the wires. Create a routine pruning schedule to mitigate the risks associated with overgrown branches.

Professional Assessment and Service

While DIY garden care can be fulfilling, pruning trees near power lines is a task that should be left to the professionals. The risks associated with trimming trees close to electrical lines are significant, including the potential for electrocution or causing a power outage.

It’s crucial to hire ISA-certified arborists to work safely around power lines. These experts can assess the tree's health, determine the necessary maintenance, and carry out the work without putting themselves or others at risk.

Coordination with Utility Companies

When it comes to trees that might affect power lines, coordination with your local utility company, such as ENMAX in Calgary, can become essential.

Green Drop worker climbing and inspecting a tree near the power line

What to Do in Emergency Tree Situations in Calgary

When trees and power lines clash during storms or due to accidents, the situation can quickly escalate into an emergency. Here’s how to handle these dangerous scenarios:

Immediate Actions

If a tree falls onto power lines or if you encounter downed lines, the first rule is simple: stay away.

Always assume that fallen power lines are live and carry lethal voltage. Do not attempt to touch or remove anything in contact with the line, including tree limbs or other debris.

Your immediate priority should be to keep yourself and others at a safe distance – generally at least 10 meters (about 33 feet), which is roughly the length of a bus.

Reporting the Incident

Once you have ensured your safety and that of those around you, report the situation immediately. Call 911 to alert emergency services to the danger, especially if the fallen lines pose an immediate threat to public safety.

After contacting emergency services, call your local utility company (ENMAX in Calgary) to report the downed lines. Provide them with detailed information about the location and nature of the incident so they can dispatch the appropriate response teams quickly.

Ensuring Personal and Public Safety

While waiting for emergency responders and utility workers, do your part to secure the area. Keep bystanders and passers-by informed and at a safe distance from the hazard.

If you’re in a position to do so safely, use barriers or cones to mark the area around the downed lines visibly. Communicate clearly to everyone nearby to avoid the area, emphasizing that the risk of electrocution is real and present.

By maintaining vigilance and preventing others from approaching the scene, you contribute significantly to public safety until professional help arrives.

Calling in The Tree Care Professionals

In the emergency situation of a tree falling over power lines, you may first have first responders and the utility company secure the scene. Next, we come in to safely remove the tree or trim the tree:

  • Working with the power company - We work with ENMAX to ensure that the power is completely cut off before working on the tree. Safety first!
  • Emergency tree services - Our trained team uses specialized equipment to handle the situation. Depending on the situation, this could be trimming or complete removal.
  • Cleaning Up - We don’t leave a mess. Getting rid of the debris is part of the deal.

FAQs on Tree & Power Lines

  1. Why is it dangerous to have trees near power lines?

Trees near power lines pose a risk of branches or even the entire tree coming into contact with live wires, leading to electrocution, fires, and disruptions to power supply.

  1. What are some signs that a tree may be too close to power lines?

Signs include branches touching or near power lines, tree growth toward power lines, or any visible contact between the tree and the wires.

  1. Who is responsible for maintaining trees near power lines?

If the tree is on your property, it's your responsibility as the property owner to ensure trees are maintained and kept clear of power lines.

  1. How can I safely trim trees near power lines?

Trimming trees near power lines should be done by professionals who are trained and equipped to work around electrical hazards. DIY trimming near power lines is extremely dangerous and should be avoided.

  1. How can I prevent trees from growing into power lines?

Regular tree maintenance, including pruning, can help prevent trees from growing into power lines. Planting trees away from power lines and choosing smaller, slow-growing species for planting near them can also help.

Green Drop worker cutting trees near the power lines

Don't Get Tangled—Call the Pros!

When trees and power lines cross paths in Calgary, it's no time to take matters into your own hands. Green Drop’s emergency tree care services are just a click away, ready to defuse risky situations with speed and a smile.

Don't let a downed tree electrify your day, reach out to us and stay safely grounded while we handle the rest.

Schedule Your Free Tree Removal Assessment