Who Removes Fallen Trees from Roads: An Inside Look

In the wake of severe weather events or other natural disasters, a common obstacle many drivers face is a fallen tree blocking their way. It’s not only an inconvenience but also a potential hazard.

Who Removes Fallen Trees from Roads?

So, when trees fall onto roads, who is responsible for clearing them away? Let’s delve deeper into the process and the entities involved.

1. Immediate Response: Emergency Services

When a tree falls onto a road, especially if it’s a busy thoroughfare, the first response often comes from emergency services like the police or fire department.

Their primary goal is to ensure public safety by redirecting traffic, addressing any immediate dangers, and assessing the scene.

2. Local Public Works or Transportation Department

Once the immediate danger has been handled, the responsibility typically shifts to the local Public Works or Transportation Department, depending on the jurisdiction.

  • City Roads: For roads within a city or town boundary, the local city or town’s public works department is usually responsible for clearing fallen trees.
  • County Roads: If the tree falls on a county-maintained road, then the county’s road or public works department will handle it.
  • State Roads and Highways: State departments of transportation will manage fallen trees on state roads and highways.

3. Specialized Tree Removal Teams

Once the department in charge is alerted, they deploy teams equipped with the necessary machinery to remove the tree. This team typically includes:

  • Arborists: These are tree experts who can assess the tree’s condition, determining if the entire tree needs removal or just the portion blocking the road.
  • Heavy Equipment Operators: Using machinery like cranes, bulldozers, or chainsaws, these operators perform the heavy lifting.

4. City or Municipal Public Works Departments

In most urban areas, the public works or street departments of cities and municipalities are the primary entities responsible for removing trees that have fallen on local roads. These departments have dedicated teams and equipment to address such issues. They are often the first responders for tree obstructions, especially in highly populated areas.

How to Reach Them: Most city or municipal websites have a dedicated helpline or online reporting system for road blockages and other public safety concerns.

5. State Departments of Transportation (DOT)

For trees that have fallen on highways and interstates, the responsibility typically lies with the state’s Department of Transportation. These entities are equipped with the necessary machinery and personnel to clear significant obstructions swiftly, ensuring the safety of high-speed routes.

How to Reach Them: State DOTs generally have emergency numbers or traffic management centers that the public can contact in case of obstructions.

6. Utility Companies

In instances where fallen trees have entangled power lines or other utilities, local utility companies step in. These companies prioritize safety and have specially trained crews to handle situations where electricity or other utilities are involved.

How to Reach Them: If you notice a fallen tree affecting power lines, it’s essential to call your local utility company’s emergency number immediately. Keep a safe distance, as downed power lines can be extremely dangerous.

7. Private Property Owners

If a tree falls from private property onto a public road, the responsibility can sometimes fall on the landowner. Some jurisdictions require homeowners to maintain the trees on their property to prevent them from becoming hazards.

However, this varies, and in emergencies, public departments often prioritize clearing the road over determining responsibility.

8. Utility Companies

When fallen trees interfere with power lines or other utilities, the relevant utility companies get involved. Electric companies, for example, have specialized teams trained to deal with trees that threaten or have damaged power lines.

9. National Parks and Protected Areas

In national parks or protected forested areas, the responsibility often falls on national or regional park services. These organizations have their own protocols and teams in place for dealing with fallen trees to ensure both environmental preservation and visitor safety.

10. After the Cleanup: Dealing with the Tree Remains

Once the tree is removed from the road, the next step is deciding what to do with the wood. Some departments may:

  • Repurpose the wood: For parks or woodlands, the wood might be left to decompose naturally, contributing to the ecosystem.
  • Recycle: Wood can be chipped into mulch or used for other purposes.
  • Donate or Sell: Some towns might offer the wood to residents for firewood or sell it to lumber companies.


The removal of fallen trees from roads is a collaborative effort involving various departments and professionals, all dedicated to ensuring public safety.

While the immediate aftermath of a fallen tree can be chaotic, knowing that there’s a well-established protocol and trained professionals ready to address the situation offers a sense of security.

Whether it’s a city street or a national park road, the right teams are in place to clear the way efficiently.

ALSO SEE: How to Negotiate Tree Removal

FAQs regarding the topic, “Who Removes Fallen Trees from Roads”?

1. Who is responsible for removing fallen trees from roads?
Typically, local city or county public works departments handle tree removal from public roads.

2. What if the tree falls on a highway?
State highway departments or transportation agencies usually handle removal on highways.

3. How quickly are fallen trees removed?
It varies, but priority is given to major roads and instances where there’s a safety concern.

4. What number should I call for a fallen tree?
In many areas, you should call the local non-emergency police line or city public works department.

5. Can I remove the tree myself?
It’s not advisable due to potential safety risks and legal implications.

6. Who pays for the removal of trees?
For public roads, the city or state usually covers the cost. For private properties, the owner might be responsible.

7. What if a tree from my property falls on the road?
You might be held responsible, especially if negligence regarding tree maintenance is proven.

8. Are there preventive measures for tree falls?
Yes, regular tree maintenance and inspection can help identify and address potential issues.

9. What if a tree damages my car on the road?
Contact your insurance company. Comprehensive auto insurance typically covers this.

10. Do insurance companies cover tree removal?
If it’s on a private property and poses a risk, homeowner’s insurance might cover it. Always check with your insurer.

11. How long can I expect road closures due to fallen trees?
It depends on the size of the tree and the affected area, but crews aim to clear roads as soon as possible.

12. What should I do if I encounter a fallen tree on the road?
Ensure safety first, avoid the area, and report it to local authorities.

13. How do authorities prioritize tree removal?
Priority is often given based on the severity of road obstruction and potential safety hazards.

14. Do power companies get involved with tree removal?
Yes, especially if the fallen tree affects power lines.

15. What happens to the tree after removal?
Many cities will chip the wood for mulch or use it in local parks.

16. What if the tree blocks my driveway?
You might need to contact a private tree removal service, especially if it’s on private property.

17. Who is responsible for trees overhanging roads?
Usually, the property owner is responsible for trees on their property, even if they overhang public roads.

18. What’s the difference between a public and private road for tree removal?
The jurisdiction varies. Private road maintenance is usually the responsibility of property owners or homeowners’ associations.

19. Can I be fined if my tree falls on a road?
It’s possible, especially if lack of maintenance or negligence is determined.

20. How can I prevent my trees from falling onto roads?
Regular pruning, maintenance, and consulting with arborists can help.

21. Are certain tree species more prone to falling?
Yes, some trees have weaker wood or are more susceptible to diseases that can make them fall.

22. What do I do if a tree falls during a storm?
Stay safe, avoid going outside, and report the fallen tree once it’s safe.

23. How do cities prepare for tree falls during major storms?
Many cities have preemptive tree trimming programs and emergency response plans.

24. Are there any signs that a tree might fall soon?
Yes, signs include leaning, visible roots, cracks in the trunk, or fungal growth.

25. Can I report potentially hazardous trees near roads?
Absolutely, you should report any concerns to your local city or county office.

26. Do tree removal companies work with cities for road clearance?
Often, yes. In major events, cities might contract local companies for faster response.

27. What’s the role of an arborist in tree removal?
Arborists are experts in tree care and can assess, recommend, and sometimes assist in tree removal.

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