Did you know trees that interfere with power lines are the No. 1 cause of power outages? In total, trees are responsible for nearly 70% of the time our customers spend without power. That’s why we trimmed more than 5,500 miles of trees in 2020, resulting in significantly fewer outages for our customers.

While tree trimming has a big impact on power reliability, we know it also raises some questions from our customers. To help answer those questions, we’ve listed responses below to the most common questions, comments, and concerns we receive regarding our tree trim work:

If DTE just trimmed trees in my neighborhood, why did my power still go out?

Although trees are the leading cause of power outages, outages may be caused by other factors such as extreme temperatures, animals, lightning, ice, public interference or an equipment problem. It is still possible that a tree-related outage may occur after tree trimming. Healthy trees or trees outside of our specification (further away from our power lines) may fail unexpectedly. Please keep in mind that a tree several houses, blocks or miles away from you may be the cause of your outage.

How does DTE determine what areas to trim?

DTE follows a tree trimming strategy that considers several factors including circuit performance and time since last trimmed when determining which areas to trim each year. These factors aim to improve the safety and reliability of the electrical system. We actively monitor our electrical system to know what areas need trimming. We also watch to see if we need to increase the number of tree trim crews to provide the best electric service possible.

What are the markers on the trees, and what do they represent?

If a tree poses a serious hazard to nearby power lines, and/or if trimming will damage the tree’s health, it may need to be removed. These trees are marked with two white dots. Our field representatives then make every effort to obtain a tree removal permit from the property owner. Once the permit is signed, the tree is marked with a white “X” indicating it is ready for removal.

Why do my trees look misshapen after trimming?

Our tree trimming program follows industry standards and provides a balanced solution between safe and reliable power and tree health/aesthetics. Crews adhere to a tree trimming specification to clear around DTE electrical equipment, depending on the species of the tree and voltage of the power lines. Initial trimming can look more drastic, but most trees typically fill back in within a growing season or two. Higher voltage lines and fast-growing species require more clearance.

Why don’t you take the wood after you cut it?

DTE follows a debris policy that allows crews to move quickly and efficiently through an area while providing the opportunity for homeowners to use the trimmed debris from their property as firewood. This policy allows us to keep customer rates affordable while maintaining and improving reliability. DTE’s debris policy depends on how the debris was first caused or what it resulted from:

Debris caused by mother nature: Trees or limbs that fall due to weather or other natural causes are the customer’s responsibility for removal. If the fallen vegetation is interfering with DTE equipment, we will trim/clear the interference and leave all woody debris from the damaged tree.

Wood left from utility work: Any large wood will be cut into manageable lengths and piled on the property for customer use or disposal. Small branches will be chipped and removed.

Dead or diseased wood: In order to reduce the spread of forest pests and diseases, previously dead or diseased wood will be left on site.

Why wasn’t I notified before trees were trimmed near my residence?

For scheduled preventative maintenance, we notify customers via letter and automated phone call before tree trimming occurs in their immediate area. Homeowners with tree work needed on their property are contacted by a DTE tree trimming representative to discuss the work. If the homeowner is not available, a “Tree Work Scheduled” door card will be left with contact information for the homeowner to call and speak to a representative before tree work begins. In some instances, unplanned or emergent tree trimming occurs without prior notification due to an outage or public safety hazard.

Does DTE trim around my service drop?

No, typically DTE does not trim around the service drop. Your service drop, or the line that runs from the utility pole to your home, is your personal connection to the power grid. DTE only maintains vegetation around the pole to pole wires. Keeping branches and other brush away from your service drop is the homeowner’s responsibility and can prevent an outage or other electrical problems. Because the service drop is an energized line, we highly recommend using a professional tree trimming service to perform the work. On occasion, if a tree is causing a service drop outage or hazard, we will have to do the necessary amount of trimming to restore the outage or eliminate the hazard.

Does DTE require different permissions to trim or remove trees on private verses public property?

Many municipalities and publicly owned lands may have additional regulations limiting how trees can be managed on these properties. DTE partners with regional governments to ensure we can accomplish our necessary tree maintenance, while also adhering to the relevant laws. We are always happy to work with our partners, both public and private, to ensure the best trimming results are achieved.

I’ve heard that oaks shouldn’t be trimmed in the summer due to the threat of oak wilt. What measures are DTE taking to protect our oak trees?

We take every precaution possible to prevent the spread of oak wilt disease within the communities we serve. Whether or not oaks are trimmed in the summer months depends on the purpose of the work. In areas where oak wilt has been reported, we suspend all scheduled tree maintenance on all oak species from April 15 through Aug. 1. In cases of an emergency, such as a threat to power reliability, a threat to public safety or prior to overhead construction work, trimming commences during these months. All cuts are sealed with latex-based paint to prevent the entry of the pathogen. We then clean our tools with disinfectant between sites to reduce the risk of transmission.

What is being done to protect elm trees from Dutch elm disease?

Dutch elm disease is a well-established forest pathogen in Michigan that negatively impacts native species of elm. Our tree maintenance program includes a process where we leave a door hanger at each property that has trimming work scheduled. If you have concerns about elms on your property, please call the phone number listed on the door hanger to speak to a representative before trimming begins.

We hope these answers help clear up any questions you have about our tree trim practices. If you still have questions, we invite you to visit dteenergy.com/treecare for more information or to submit an inquiry for a specific question or concern that was not answered above.