July 12, 2019 / By Dan Gent

Trees – Should they stay, or should they go?

Trees, trees and more trees. A blessing to mankind since we first used a stick to poke the sleeping bear.

Trees give us shade in the sun; shelter from the rain; a place to put up Christmas decorations; a place to build a tree-fort for our kids and scratching posts for bears. They are a home to birds, squirrels and are vital to the ecosystem. They help cool the planet and filter CO2. From one corner of this globe to the next, trees are essential, diverse and have many things to offer. If you haven’t hugged a tree today, you should.

If you like your summer air conditioning and like having power for your television to watch the next Raptors game, you may not realise that these luxuries are at the mercy of mother nature. Trees are notorious for causing blackouts. They sit and wait to strike. When the wind uproots them, branches start to fly -they break, they snap, a branch here and a branch there – they could easily come in contact with powerlines and related structures causing damage to the electricity distribution system. And you guessed it, no air conditioning and no Raptors.

In 2018, Canada had suffered from many incidents across the country due to extreme weather, and many of those events caused copious amounts of outages. You’ll find that some of these outages were caused by trees.

Trees are accounted for 19% of all interruptions in 2018, up 2% from 2017. However, to remove trees and repair the damage they cause is another story. Such tree contacts contributed to 38% of total outage hours in 2018, up 13% from 2017. This was the result of an increase of 19 million outage hours from 2017, to 48 million.

With hundreds of thousands of distribution lines in Canada maintaining the electricity system, this is no small task. It’s truly everyone’s responsibility (Raptor’s fan or not) to help maintain what has been touted as the 20th century’s greatest invention: the electrical grid.

Here’s my ask to you: be safe. Don’t trim a tree that is close to or is touching a powerline. Contact your local electricity provider and inform them of the potential risk. Do not try and trim the branches yourself, it’s best to leave it to the professionals. This simple action will keep the trees in good health and keep the lights on.