How to Spot a Dangerous Tree and What to Do


July 18, 2012

News Highlights

  • Private property owners are responsible for maintaining their trees, and they should have a certified arborist inspect their trees regularly.
  • There are signs that a tree may be in danger of toppling, but it's not always obvious when a tree is in poor health. This is why it's important to have a certified tree care professional inspect your trees.
  • County officials ask residents to report potentially dangerous trees on public properties.

Following the severe thunderstorms that struck our area more than two weeks ago, Fairfax County residents should have a certified arborist examine their trees to see if they present a danger. The derecho storm may have weakened trees that are already in poor health, putting them in greater danger of toppling.

Fallen Tree on Georgetown Pike

While it may not always be obvious when a tree could pose a hazard, these are signs that may indicate that a tree may be in danger of falling:

  • Dead branches in the tree or on the ground near the tree
  • Mushrooms near the base of the tree
  • Excessive leaf loss or dead leaves at the top of the tree
  • Cavities, cracks or seams in the tree or areas of rotten wood
  • Nearby trees are dead or have significant damage
  • A change in how the tree leans
  • Ground is heaving or cracked near the base of the tree
  • The surrounding ground is damaged from construction, erosion or storms

Residents who are concerned about a hazardous tree should take these steps:

  • If a tree presents an immediate life-threatening hazard, including falling onto electric wires, or it is blocking a public road, call 9-1-1.
  • If a tree falls onto utility lines, call your power company: Dominion Power at 1-888-667-3000, TTY 711, or NOVEC at 703-335-0500, TTY 711. Never approach or touch trees or limbs that contact power lines, as may be energized, and extremely dangerous!

Private property owners are responsible for maintaining their trees, and Fairfax County has no legal authority to require the removal of hazardous tree on private property unless the tree presents a public hazard.  Learn more about dealing with hazardous trees on private property.

Property owners are encouraged to have their trees examined regularly by a certified arborist. The county offers tips on how to find a certified arborist (PDF).

To assist the county to manage hazardous trees or to report a potentially dangerous tree on public property, contact the following agencies based on where a tree is located:

For more information, contact Irene Haske, Department of Public Works and Environmental Services, at 703-324-5821, TTY 711.

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