Icy tree dangers: Falling branches & trimmer scams

Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Trees in West Michigan are buckling under a thick coat of ice that has formed over the last two days. Fallen branches and downed trees litter roads and neighborhoods.

In Mark Kremer’s front yard in Grand Rapids Township, a large tree split in half. One side fell in his yard and he’s afraid the rest will fall into his house.  

“Yeah, it’s troubling,” he told 24 Hour News 8 Thursday. “I don’t really know what to do first. But an arborist would definitely have to be involved to say remove it or not.”

Brett Ryan Buckingham, who owns Monster Tree Service franchise, said the weather served up a one-two punch on trees. Last week’s polar vortex brought subzero temperatures that created frost crack. Once the temperatures warmed, the wood expanded. Once the ice formed with freezing rain, the trees couldn’t handle the heavy loads.

“The biggest thing now is to be looking for these signs of distress,” Buckingham said. “Looking for those vertical cracks and calling a tree service. Do not be touching these trees right now.”

Kremer said he won’t stay at his house. It’s just too risky.

“It’s interesting, when you’re in the house and you’re in the kitchen, you hear creaking and you don’t know what’s coming,” he said.

Chances are good Kremer and thousands like him will be hiring a tree service sooner rather than later. The question is which one.

“The biggest thing is don’t feel pressured,” said Troy Baker, communications manager for the Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan. “People are going to show up at your door, offer a great deal for you. Don’t feel like you need to say yes right then and there.”

Baker said there are two typical scams to watch out for: the person who demands a down payment and then never returns, and the company that does part of the work but leaves before it’s done.

“When you’re going to hire somebody, make sure you know what is included in that agreement and whether they’re supposed to haul it away or not,” Baker explained. “Otherwise, you may be left with a huge mess to clean up after the tree is down.”

The bottom line: Do your research.

“Google is your friend. Type their name into Google, see what comes up. Go to BBB.org, put in the name of the person or the company, make sure you understand what kind of company they are.
What kind of complaints they have, what kind of reviews they have. Be comfortable with the person before you hire them.”

Baker also reminded homeowners to ask if the tree company is insured and what the insurance covers.

“The first bite at the apple isn’t always the best way to go,” he said. “So try a couple companies out, get estimates, make sure you’re not going to overpay.”

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