Trees and Power Lines: What You Need to Know

At first glance, trees may seem entirely safe. Indeed, trees often symbolize stability in ancient myths. However, trees can be unsafe in certain circumstances. As our regular readers will recognize by now, poorly cared-for trees are more likely to fall in a storm. Power lines also complicate the safety of trees. In this post we discuss what homeowners should know about trees that are placed near power lines. We also talk about safety issues that can occur, and the safety precautions that homeowners should consider. We include tips for considering the location of power lines are when planting. Finally, we touch on what to do in tree/power line emergency situations.Portland trees near power lines

Portland Tree Care: Safety Tips for Trees Near Power Lines

  • Never attempt to trim a tree that has grown into power lines. The utilities companies are responsible for maintaining the power lines, and they will prune around power lines on a regular schedule. Sometimes they may call for the removal of a tree that has grown too close to power lines. If you’re concerned that a tree is growing too close to a power line, call your utility company as well as our Portland certified arborists. We would be happy to schedule an advisory visit.
  • Power lines are not insulated; if you touch one it could kill you. This also includes branches that are touching a power line. When in doubt, call the electric company first. Do not touch bare wires or branches that are against bare wire. Prevent children from climbing trees that are near power lines. Also observe the 10-foot rule—don’t attempt to work on any tree that comes within 10 feet of a power line. Instead, call us for Portland tree services. Our arborists are thoroughly informed on how to safely prune around power lines.
  • Never put a ladder against a power line.
  • Research how large your tree will be at maturity prior to tree planting. Portland’s long growing season will allow trees to thrive, so it’s important to choose the right species for the available space. Ensure that any species you plant will not grow too large, and that they will not grow into nearby power lines.
  • Any time you prune, be sure to observe basic safety guidelines. Make sure that you are working on a steady, level surface, including any ladders. Don’t try to remove large branches while working from a ladder. Instead break up the branch into smaller chunks. If you have trouble working from a short ladder, call a pro instead. Don’t over-extend; don’t work past your comfortable height.
  • Wear adequate safety protection while conducting Portland tree pruning. You should always wear eye protection. Ear protection is also needed when working with power.
  • Dead or diseased limbs can be removed immediately. Don’t worry about the season. (But do mind the safety cautions listed above.)
  • Keep the equipment sharp, practice making good cuts (not cutting into the branch collar), and don’t worry about sealing your pruning cuts. If pruning is done properly, trees are very good at sealing over their own injuries. Learn how to identify the branch collar, and where to make a proper cut (above the branch collar, but without leaving a stub). More questions about tree trimming? Portland Fruit Tree Project offers affordable tree care workshops (which Urban Forest Pros hosts from time to time). Be careful not to injure or cut through the branch collar).

Other considerations

Never plant a tree under a high voltage power line. Here’s a short list of trees that under normal conditions are short enough to be planted under distribution power lines: Trident, Amur, Paperbark, and Tartian Maples; flowering dogwood, Hawthorne, Bristlecone Pine, Honeysuckle, Sumac, Juniper, Rose Acacia.

The following plants grow too tall and should never be planted under power lines: Silver or Norway Maple, Oak, Colorado Blue Spruce, White Spruce, and most pines.


The number for Portland General Electric (PGE) is 503-228-6322. For Pacific Power and Light (PP&L) it is 1-888-221-7070. If you see a tree, or branch leaning on a high voltage line, call the power company immediately at the numbers provided above. For life-threatening emergencies call 911.

If a tree falls onto a wire during or after a storm, call your electric company as well as your arborist. Here at Urban Forest Pros, we are experienced in safely removing fallen branches and trees from a variety of precarious situations. You can trust us to remove hazard trees safely, while minimizing the damage to your property. Put our number in your phone so you can get a hold of us quickly following emergencies.

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