Early on this sunny Wednesday morning, Jan. 18, a 275-ton crane, too big for an alley, was parked in the middle of the block and lifting section by section of an 80 foot tall silver maple tree out of a backyard.
The neighbors could still access their homes next door, they were just advised to stay indoors as the heavy branches were suspended above them.
Adrian Swanson has lived on the 3300 Benjamin block in Northeast Minneapolis for over 40 years, having seen many changes as its second oldest home-owner and block leader. He and his wife first became concerned about the tree in his backyard when five years ago his arborist friend called it a “pig of a tree,” noting the structure of its branches that stray out horizontally. At one point the top of the tree was believed to have been chopped off by a previous owner, otherwise known by arborists as “topping,” explaining the ingrown branches which splay out that make it structurally unsound.
The Swansons’ decision to get the tree removed has to do with real estate value and potential liability. “There is a smaller chance of selling this home with the risk of those weak branches falling on top of the house.” Such branches have yet to fall on his home, but they have caused damage to his garage.
Swanson contacted Northeast Tree Inc. to get the tree taken down and safely removed. Kris Baumann, the crew forewoman, notes that using the crane for tree removal is standard procedure. “The goal is to never damage anyone’s property or put anyone in danger.”
“This is the third deadliest job in North America, so strong communication is important on our team. When the chainsaws are on and it’s noisy, non-verbal communication is vital for our crew. Hand signals are used more often than the headsets we use.”
In this case, the 80-foot tree required more staff than usual to remove. Two arborists were harnessed in the tree for most of the nine-hour extraction, while the rest of the crew maintained the site for safe disposal and clear communication.
There were many neighbors looking on as the crane towered above the block. Baumann said tree removal is common all year long, even in the middle of winter. “We have city contracts to maintain and upkeep trees, so that means going down block by block and pruning trees to prevent them from being hazardous and to upkeep appearances.”
Regarding the fear of heights, Matt Bever, a certified arborist answers that “It’s a very healthy fear.” Bever is a contracted arborist and climbs trees at a quick pace, while arranging the ropes so the crane can lift each heavy branch one at a time. “It’s different when you’re working and focusing at the task at hand, you don’t think too much about the heights,” said Baumann, who also serves as a volunteer firefighter. Precaution is a very necessary part of the profession, as one of the last sections of the silver maple tree weighed over 15,000 pounds.
That section and others were cut into smaller pieces and hauled away. Multiple trucks showed up for the job, which got rescheduled from a windy stormy day two weeks earlier. They carried several 22,000 pound weights and 14,000 pound weights that, combined, would anchor the crane truck and counterbalance the heaviest pieces.