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Is Duke Energy Responsible If a Tree It Prunes Falls on Your House?

Every few years Duke Energy prunes the branches on one side of Brian Fitts tree. One side.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Brian Fitts has lived in his home for more than a dozen years. The Greensboro house is one of many surrounded by trees on Wilshire Drive. It’s impossible to drive the neighborhood without being smothered in shade by the giant trees. One of those trees is now causing a bit of unrest for Fitts, “It’s a monster,” said Fitts. 

The massive tree sits in the backyard about 15 feet from the house, “To be honest I like the tree it provides shade, so my air conditioner doesn’t have to run all day,” said Fitts.The concern Fitts has deals with Duke Energy and the pruning of the tree, “I feel like they should have a hand in how we resolve this threat,” said Fitts.

The tree has been consistently pruned on one side for years to insure power lines are not impacted. Branches on the side of the tree that would hang over the lines are pruned when needed to insure they don’t hang over the lines and cause a more serious issue, “I understand what they (Duke Energy) are doing but it’s dangerous to my home,” said Fitts.

The tree does slightly lean a bit more toward the home but there is no obvious indication it is more susceptible to falling based on what Duke Energy has done. Fitts however has had a different tree fall on his home and does not want to take any chances, “You look at all the branches, (on the one side) that’s a lot of weight on that side of the tree,” said Fitts.

WFMY News 2 reached out to an arborist, an insurance agent and Duke Energy in hopes of providing some answers and maybe a solution to the issue.

The arborist told us that pruning a tree if done right should have little to no impact as to how the tree falls if toppled over during a storm and that it really depends on the direction of the “prevailing wind."

In most cases if a tree falls on your house even if it’s a neighbor’s tree it’s your responsibility. The exception is if you notify the neighbor that the tree appears to be dead or dying and you can document that exchange and request it be removed before toppling over.

The question Fitts has is “If I notify Duke about my concerns now and the tree falls is Duke at fault, “Duke has acted within their rights to protect that (power lines) and I don’t think any court of law that would find them liable in that scenario,” said Christopher Cook from Alliance Insurance.

After we reached out to Duke Energy the power company did send an arborist out to the home to look at the tree and make sure it is healthy. Officials with Duke Energy sent us an email outlining what the arborist found.

The arborist concluded the tree was healthy with no signs of fungus or root rot. Duke also says it follows the American National Standards Institute for tree care maintenance.

Fitts is satisfied with the findings and appreciates the fact that Duke sent someone out to look at the tree, however he is not sure about keeping it, “I know one thing, if it falls on my house I’m going to get a new house,” said Fitts.

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