Tree trimming requires a deft touch

You could say Jared Walters is a surgeon.

But his operating room is more than 20 feet in the air as he stands in a bucket attached to a boom truck. His scalpel is a chain saw, and his patient is a house after a 50-foot-tall tree fell on it Tuesday morning.

Walters is a tree trimming crew leader with Modesto's community forestry division. He operated for more than two hours as he painstakingly used his chain saw to remove four limbs pressing against the house's roof on Teresa Street.

The limbs were under tremendous pressure, and the wrong cut with the chain saw could cause a limb to bounce back and hit him or punch a hole in the roof.

"It takes a different mind-set to do this," Walters said. "I've been doing trees about 12 years now. You just learn through trial and error. It's an adrenaline rush and the kicker is we get paid to do it."

After removing the brush, Walters made more than 100 cuts with his chain saw over more than two hours as he removed the limbs piece by piece.

Sometimes the entire tree can roll if the wrong cut is made, putting workers at risk or damaging the house, said Jon Shoars, who worked with Walters. Shoars works in the city's streets department but once worked in the forestry division.

He was among the city workers called out Tuesday to help forestry workers clear the dozens of trees that toppled during a day of rain and gusting wind.

The operation was a success.

"They did a great job," said Courtney Fraiser, who rents the home. "The big branch in front of the window, they managed to move it without damaging anything."

She said the tree punched a small hole in the roof, but she and the homeowner won't know the extent of the damage until the insurance company does an inspection.

In the meantime, Fraiser has a large pile of wood in her front yard, waiting for a work crew from the county's Honor Farm to come out within a couple of days to haul it away.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at or 578-2316.