Manitoba

Tree killed by Dutch elm disease wreaks havoc on North End neighbours

Wind and snow broke huge pieces off the trunk of a dead elm tree in front of a home on Alfred Avenue on Thursday, knocking out power to a neighbour's home.

Storm knocked out power next door; now homeowner wants to know how long until it's removed

Jenn Kess surveys the damage from the dead tree, as Derek Kindzierski, a neighbour whose power was knocked out, looks on.

Wind and snow broke huge pieces off the trunk of a dead elm tree in front of a home on Alfred Avenue on Thursday, knocking out power to a neighbour's home. 

Jenn Kess says the tree on the boulevard in front of her house was marked for removal due to Dutch elm disease years ago, and she has called the city several times about it over the past year. 

But on Thursday, wind caused huge branches to break off, filling Kess's driveway. A piece of the trunk broke off and knocked her neighbour's power out. 
Derek Kindzierski shows where the branches cut off his power. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

"The weight of the snow that came down brought all these branches down. I am scared. It is hanging right over the wires, and it has been dead for so long," said Kess, who estimates the tree died two years ago. 

She said the fire department came to remove the branches that fell Thursday morning. 

A Manitoba Hydro crew was called to cut the exposed power line, leaving neighbour Derek Kindzierski without power.

"I thought I had been hit by lighting, seriously. There was a giant blue flame where it hit the fence. I jumped," said Kindzierski. 

Kess is afraid someone will get seriously injured before the city takes action.

Dead elm tree wreaks havoc on North End neighbours

4 years ago
2:07
Wind and snow broke huge pieces off the trunk of a dead elm tree in front of a home on Alfred Avenue on Thursday, knocking out power to a neighbour's home. 2:07

"It scares me that it is hanging over my house. It looks like it is threatening to fall on my house or going to be crashing down on somebody walking by. There's lots of kids around here, lots of elderly people," Kess said.

She says the city told her the dead elm is considered a high priority, but she wasn't given a specific date for its removal.

At last count in September, 8,321 trees with Dutch elm disease had been marked for removal, including more than 800 identified in 2016 or even 2015. According to the city, it's the largest backlog of trees to be removed since the mid-1990s. 

"They said maybe by mid-November, but I'm afraid a lot more damage could happen by then," Kess said.

It's not the first time property has been damaged by the dead tree. A huge chunk fell on Kess's friend's car in the summer. Kess says her friend filed an MPI claim for $7,000 in damages.

She wonders whether where she lives is a factor in the lack of action.

"I know the city is overwhelmed with the amount of work that needs to be done," she said.  "I get that.

"But a tree that is in this bad shape and rotted for so many years — I find it hard to believe that this would be allowed to be like this or left like this in another neighbourhood. It doesn't seem fair that a tree that has been marked for that long and so dead and slowly falling apart for so long and just left here — it's dangerous."

In a statement to CBC, the city said because the tree is tangled in overhead wires, it needs to work with Manitoba Hydro to 'prioritize this removal.' (Tyson Koschik/CBC)
In a statement to CBC, the city said the tree was tagged in August 2015.

"There are numerous overhead wires situated in the crown of the tree, which requires Hydro assistance to facilitate the removal. We are currently working with Manitoba Hydro to prioritize this removal," the statement said. 

Manitoba Hydro said while it has ensured the area is safe by removing downed power lines, Kindzierski has to pay for the repairs.

According to Manitoba Hydro spokesperson Bruce Owen, "in situations where a tree falls on a line and damages the service mast, the customer/homeowner is responsible. This includes contacting a licensed electrician to repair the mast [reattach it to the home] and inspection by the City of Winnipeg. Manitoba Hydro's role is to restore service once that inspection is done. "

Derek Kindzierski says he doesn't have the money to pay for an electrician to repair the mast on his home, required before Manitoba Hydro will restore service. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)
Kindzierski says  he doesn't have the money to pay for an electrician to do the repairs. He can't understand why he should be footing the bill when it was a city tree that damaged his property. 

"The city doesn't care about poor people. [Neither] does Hydro. I am sitting in my house with no heat, no power. I don't have $1,100 to pay an electrician," he said. 

The city said if a homeowner believes they have a claim against the city for damage to their property, they can file one. 
Thursday's wind and snow wrenched huge branches off a dead tree with Dutch elm disease. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

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