Frequently Asked Questions

When will the tree crews arrive?

Tree crews usually arrive three to six weeks after a vegetation inspector has patrolled an area. Area residents are notified of the work when the inspector leaves a "door hanger" notice. At times, scheduling conflicts, emergencies or other interruptions occur that may alter the schedule. If the work is urgent, crews may arrive in a matter of days. For a better time estimate, call the contact person listed on the door hanger.

How often are areas patrolled?

The Vegetation Management Department patrols every mile of every line every year. Other departments within Pacific Gas and Electric Company may also patrol areas for other necessary maintenance work.

How can I be less affected by tree crew activity?

  • Move vehicles and lawn or garden equipment from the area
    where the trees are to be trimmed.
  • Unlock your gate when you know the crews are in the area.
  • Make sure animals are leashed or secured.
  • Discuss tree trimming or removal options with the inspector.
  • Work with the inspector to discuss directional pruning.

How can I help?

Be cooperative with the inspectors and tree trimmers. They will try to answer your questions the best they can. When the crews arrive, they need free and clear access to the trees to be trimmed. They also appreciate having animals restrained, so that they can work without interruption.

Which overhead power lines are you trying to protect with vegetation trimming?

Typically, only high-voltage overhead power lines are cleared of vegetation. These are the lines in the highest position on power poles. The words "High Voltage" are marked on poles or cross-arms with high voltage lines. Secondary lines, those below the transformer, are only trimmed if there is strain or abrasion present.

A tree is growing into my service drop. Isn't this a hazard?

The service drop is the electrical line that runs from the utility pole to your home or business and is typically not high voltage. This line only serves you and is not typically trimmed by Pacific Gas and Electric Company. If you think tree branches are straining or abrading your service drop, phone 1 (800) PGE-5000. Care should be taken by anyone clearing trees near service drops, because, although the lines may be low voltage, an electrical contact could result in injury or death.

Does trimming spread disease?

Pacific Gas and Electric Company requires contractors to disinfect their tools between locations if there is a known disease in the area, as appropriate or as recommended by state and local agencies.

Do I have to give you permission to prune?

When our inspection staff identifies tree trimming or pole clearing work to be done on your property, you should be notified. Your permission is not required, because state law mandates that we maintain our lines, and keep them safe and hazard-free.

Aren't you trespassing if you come onto my property?

The utility is legally required to maintain its facilities. Utility easements and rights of ways are often conveyed in the deed to a property. In addition, as a condition of electric service to your home, you must allow Pacific Gas and Electric Company to have access to your property for maintenance at all reasonable times. Therefore, we have the right to access our facilities, as necessary, to properly maintain our facilities. If you have questions, call 1 (800) PGE-5000.

Can I get wood chips?

Yes. Our contractors are always looking for customers to accept wood chips. This is an environmentally friendly way to dispose of the wood chips. Wood chips make great mulch, keep weeds down and keep trees moist. Please call 1-800-743-5000 if you are interested in this service. A load of chips is about 10 cubic yards of mixed tree material.

How do you decide which trees to trim?

Trees that require trimming are those that currently, or will within a year, encroach on high-voltage power lines. Tree inspectors assess the location of trees and their growth rate. In addition, we take into consideration limb configuration and potential wind conditions. If you believe that a tree poses a danger to lines, please call 1 (800) PGE-5000 to arrange an inspection.

Why would you trim my trees and not my neighbor's tree?

There are many reasons, but usually the main ones are that your neighbor's tree does not affect the power lines or the lines are not high-voltage lines.

How do you decide how much to trim?

The amount of trimming necessary is prescribed by a qualified utility forester, based on tree growth and structure, wind sway and line sag. Factors that influence the amount and type of trimming necessary include species of tree, environmental factors, irrigation, proximity of the tree to a line and line configuration. As always, we also need to include a reasonable margin of safety above the absolute minimum clearance requirements.

What is a line clearance tree contractor?

A line clearance tree contractor is a tree-trimming company that has an ongoing line clearance safety program, as defined by the federal and state Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This program must include ongoing training, equipment maintenance and inspection programs to ensure tools are non-conductive for workers who routinely work near high-voltage power lines.

Many independent tree trimmers claim they are "line clearance certified" because they once worked for a qualified line clearance tree company. However, certification is not transferable between companies, unless the company is line clearance qualified. Pacific Gas and Electric Company employs only qualified line clearance tree contractors to work around the high voltage power lines.

A homeowner should never hire a private tree trimmer to work within 10 feet of high-voltage power lines.

Is this the same as a certified arborist?

No. Arborists who are certified by the International Society of Arboriculture are knowledgeable and qualified in the care and maintenance of trees. This designation does not certify them to work close to power lines. Click here for more information about our PG&E and contractors.

What about tree houses?

If any part of a tree holding a tree house is within 10 feet of a power line, it is too close, and the risk of electrocution to children playing in the tree house is very high. Make sure that children cannot reach the lines with a pole or any other object. For more information about tree houses, please visit our Power Line Safety & Trees page. If in doubt, call 1 (800) PGE-5000 to have the situation checked.

Why won't the utility put lines underground and spare the trees?

Undergrounding of lines sounds like an aesthetic and safe alternative to overhead lines, and sometimes it is. But undergrounding comes with an extremely high price tag, coupled with longer outages and more difficult repairs in the event of a power failure. Pacific Gas and Electric Company supports a program, Rule 20, which has been approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, to underground existing overhead lines in areas where there will be general public benefits from the undergrounding as recommended by local counties and cities.

You should find out where underground facilities are located before you dig on your property. Call Underground Service Alert (USA) at 1 (800) 227-2600 at least two working days before you dig.

Why did I receive this line clearance refusal letter when I did not refuse the tree work?

At the time of pruning for the overhead electrical conductors our contract tree crews are required to attain sufficient clearance to last through the next routine work cycle. Your refusal to allow us to achieve a sufficient clearance to maintain compliance will jeopardize public safety and electric reliability. Additionally, if a customer does not allow access to our tree crews for this required work, we consider that a refusal.

Why did I receive a Hire Your Own Tree Contractor letter when I did not refuse the tree work?

At the time of pruning for the overhead electrical conductors our contract tree crews are required to attain sufficient clearance to last through the next routine trim. Someone at your property indicated that they would rather hire their own contractor to perform the tree clearance work. Additionally, If a customer does not allow access to our tree crews for this required work, we consider that a refusal. The letter was sent to express our concerns and explain the dangers and liability of hiring your own contractor. Additionally, If a customer does not allow access to our tree crews for this required work, we consider that a refusal. The letter was sent to express our concerns and explain the dangers and liability of hiring your own contractor.

Why did I receive a letter about my Palm tree?

While we can frequently trim trees to re-direct growth away from the power lines, this is not possible with Palm trees once they are within 10 feet of the high voltage lines. Palm trees within 10 feet can be a frequent source of outages in your community during storms and wind events. Our arborists have determined that the pruning required will be below the center initiating growth and the palm will probably die. We offer two options for our customers when palms are within 10 feet of the high voltage lines. For more information about our options, click here to learn about Right Tree Right Place.