Tree Pruning in the Time of Covid

The Covid emergency has, as we are all painfully aware, caused most local businesses to shut down, and for good reason. Stopping the spread of this deadly virus has become a test of individual and collective citizenship. Brende & Lamb began observing the shelter-in-place order as soon as it was given. The crews stayed home and the office staff, working remotely, began studying recommendations about work in the time of Covid.

After a great deal of research, and after checking with government officials, Brende & Lamb is returning to work, but only for hazard reduction pruning. Hazard reduction is among the exemptions provided in Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-33-20:

“Workers such as plumbers, electricians, exterminators, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences.”

Governor Newsome’s order was clarified by the Alameda County Health Officer on 3/31/2020:

“F. For the purposes of this Order [Shelter in Place No. 20-0], “Essential Businesses” are: xii. Arborists, landscapers, gardeners, and similar service professionals, but only to the limited extent necessary to maintain the habitability, sanitation, operation of businesses or residences, or the safety of residents, employees, or the public (such as fire safety or tree trimming to prevent a dangerous condition), and not for cosmetic or other purposes (such as upkeep).”

What essential services do tree companies provide that are necessary to maintaining the safety of residences? There are several, and #3 may prove to the be the most important:

1. Safety pruning of trees reduces the likelihood that branches, or entire trees, will fall on houses.
2. Pruning trees away from houses interrupts pathways used by roof rats to gain entry through eaves.
3. And most importantly, given the horrific fires of 2019, tree pruning greatly reduces the risk and severity of wildfires in the urban wildland interface. The following pruning is necessary to maintain the safety of homes in our fire-prone landscape:

    a. Pruning trees back away from roofs
    b. Removing deadwood
    c. Creating greater spaces between tree crowns
    d. Removing fire ladders and opening up the understory.

2020 could be a bad fire year. The extended drought made trees more fire prone. One would think that the March rains reduced the danger, but late spring rains can increase fire risk by stimulating growth of grasses and other ladder fuels. There is so much deferred fire maintenance in the hills that we need to start fuel reduction and other fire pruning as soon as possible.

As Brende & Lamb returns to work, we will be modifying our work habits. No workers with coughs or fever will be allowed on site. We will maintain the correct 6-foot minimum social distancing between workers. The crew will wash their hands before and after each job. They will also swab down their tools before each job, and any gate door knobs, as part of our cleanup. Because we are trying to keep as much social distance as possible, we will call all our clients when we arrive on site rather than ringing their doorbells.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. That old adage takes on new urgency in an age of pandemics. The lasting cures for Covid-like events require us to look beyond the single pandemic, the tree, to the many events and their interconnectedness, the forest. Those studying the fragmentation of rainforests have long predicted a transmission chain similar to a virus moving from a bat to a pangolin to a few people in a market to the entire world. When connecting the dots about the pandemic, the destruction of the rainforest is a massive dot demanding to be connected to prevent more, and perhaps more deadly, zoonotic pandemics in the future.

Californians are painfully aware that we face another disaster, one also rooted in our treatment of nature: wildfire. Any understanding of wildfire risk would be incomplete without including a consideration of climate change. Understanding climate change requires complex thought because there are so many dots to connect, fossil fuel use chief among them. A surprisingly large dot in that chain comes from rainforest destruction, by some estimates producing as much as 20% of the world’s greenhouse gases.

Standing another old adage on its head—think globally, act locally—there is much we can do to act locally and globally, on both Covid and wildfires. Acting locally we can fight Covid by flattening the curve. Acting locally we can reduce the risk of wildfire with judicious pruning. Acting globally on both Covid and wildfires we can support groups, like the Borneo Project, who work to keep rainforests healthy. Brende & Lamb is proud of its more than 27 years sponsoring the Borneo Project.

Covid is testing the fiber of the community, and our deeper understanding of what community is, what its boundaries are. As always, we draw strength from the good will we’ve experienced among our clients and crew. Pardon me if I state the obvious, but if we all work together in the interest of the entire community, the local community and the global community, we will come through this together. I can’t see a way that we come through this without coming together, without a deeper realization that we really are, all of us everywhere, members of the same ecosystem.

Brende & Lamb

Call 510-486-8733 or click to contact Brende & Lamb online.

Brende & Lamb | Berkeley, CA

Serving the areas in and around Berkeley, Oakland, Alameda, Richmond, Albany, El Cerrito, Piedmont, Kensington, Orinda, Moraga, Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Danville, Alamo, and Pleasant Hill.