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Forman’s Grilled

Tree burns, but whose fault is it?

Scorch marks are visible on bits of downed tree.

Tree trimming has been a major issue in the discussion about power. Residents and government have complained that the utility has not done enough to maintain the area around their power lines.

Pepco has maintained that they do not have the authority to remove many of the potentially hazardous trees.

One tree on Lloyd Road in Potomac provided an example of this dilemma.

“This thing started maybe two months ago,” said Lloyd Road resident Richard Forman. While out performing other maintenance, a Pepco forester noticed a tree on Forman’s property was close to the power lines which crossed the property.

“We asked the homeowner if we could remove it at our cost,” said Pepco spokesperson Robert Dobkin.

Forman said no. “I said, ‘your wires are too close to my tree.’ … My tree has been there longer than their wires.”

“If it’s [a tree] on private property, we can’t get to it without the owner’s permission,” Dobkin said. If the owner gives permission, Pepco is bound by state and county regulations about how much of a tree they can trim. “We trim to the maximum we can,” Dobkin said.

After a few weeks, the wires rubbed the tree and, according to Forman, “electrocuted” it. Parts of the tree burned and charred chunks fell onto Lloyd Road, blocking the street.

The county came and removed the tree from the road, stacking the wood on a neighbor’s property, Forman said.

Part of the tree remained hung on the wires. Forman called Pepco and asked them to remove the tree from the wires, which they did. “We cut it and moved it and left it there,” Dobkin said.

Now, Forman is left with a pile of wood in his yard. “I called the Pepco guy and he told me it was my problem and it was going to cost me to fix their wires,” Forman said.

Pepco is not planning to bill Forman for the power lines, Dobkin said.