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Kelowna man bemoans ‘awful,’ unexpected FortisBC tree work

A Kelowna man is upset after FortisBC unexpectedly removed branches from a tree in his front yard, leaving the spruce an "atrocious" "eyesore." The utility company says the tree was a safety issue near power lines.

FortisBC says the tree, which was near a power line, posed a safety risk

A man stands in front of a large coniferous tree that has had the branches cut on one side.

Giulio Di Palma was shocked to return home from work one day in April to find the branches on half of his large spruce tree missing and a portion of the top cut off.

The tree stood proudly in middle of his front yard, but it's been humbled by the unexpected pruning job, with every one of its street-facing limbs removed.

"It looks awful," said Di Palma. "I'm the laughing stock on Barkley Road."

Di Palma's case serves as an example of how far utility company FortisBC is allowed to go when a tree grows near power lines.

The Kelowna resident says he understands the tree could have posed a safety risk near the wires, but he's upset he received no communication from FortisBC before it was trimmed.

The company says residents are notified when a tree needs to be completely removed, but not necessarily when trimmed.

Di Palma says his beloved tree, which he estimates to be more than 50 years old, was already on the property when he bought it 26 years ago.

He said the tree offers privacy from the street, and had been about 25 feet tall before FortisBC cut three feet off the top.

Di Palma is puzzled as to why the company cut as many branches as it did.

"I couldn't understand the ones on the bottom — which were literally 20 or 30 feet away from the wires — how they would be at all affected," he said.

'Not there to trim for esthetic reasons'

Gary Toft with FortisBC confirmed to CBC that Di Palma was not contacted prior to the tree work.

He said it's "less often" that property owners are notified when a tree needs to be trimmed, as opposed to removed.

"We're not there to trim for esthetic reasons; we're there to keep the community safe," Toft said Wednesday on CBC's Radio West.

"If we're there, it's because it's become a safety issue and it needs to be addressed."

He said trees too close to power lines risk falling on the line, potentially causing power outages or even a fire.

Toft said at any given time, the company has upwards of 15 tree-trimming crews working in 10 different communities.

He said homeowners should ensure they do not plant trees under power lines. For those who do have trees that pose a risk, he recommends home owners hire a certified utility arborist to have it trimmed for both safety and appearance.

Radio West9:34A Kelowna homeowner is mad after a tree on his property was cut in half by the local utility company without any warning

A Kelowna homeowner is mad after a tree on his property was cut in half by the local utility company without any warning

Di Palma says FortisBC should consult with homeowners prior to trimming trees on their property, and hopes the company will change its policy.

"It's an eyesore for the neighborhood," he said of the tree. "It's atrocious."

Di Palma says he is in discussions with FortisBC, and is hoping the company will remove the tree and replace it with a new one.

"I just want that tree down," he said.

With files from Brady Strachan and Radio West

Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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