SC man dies while cleaning up tree debris; HCFR shares how to safely cut a tree

Published: Oct. 13, 2016 at 1:31 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 13, 2016 at 3:15 PM EDT
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(Source: WMBF News)
(Source: WMBF News)

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - A man in Dillon County is dead after doing what many of you may be planning to do this weekend: cleaning up your yard.  Horry County Fire Rescue met with WMBF News reporter Meredith Helline to teach everyone how to safely cut down trees if you plan to do it yourself.

First, the fire department highly recommends people hire a professional tree service to remove large trees.  Tree removal is a highly hazardous task.  However, if you're determined to do it yourself or have to remove a smaller tree, here are some tips.

Cpt. Timothy Rainbolt has been with the fire department for almost 20 years.  He's also part of the wildfire crew, in charge of sawing trees.  He said to have the proper gear is a must before you cut. "Safety things we want to stress…which obviously starts with PPE [personal protective equipment] - the chaps I'm wearing right now, Leather gloves, chaps, eye protection, helmet and ear protection I'll put on when we start to saw," Cpt. Rainbolt said.

He said be sure to survey the area around you.  Many times after a storm, stray branches may still be stuck high in trees.  With a small wind gust, they can come tumbling to the ground.  The fire department calls those branches 'widow makers' for a reason.

"If they fall and hit you, it's probably not going to be a very good outcome," he said.

Also have someone with you to clear the branches as you cut.

Cpt. Rainbolt said to start the chainsaw before you cut, and never lead with the tip of the saw.

Begin cutting branches at the top of the tree and work your way down.  Cut branches supporting the trunk off of the ground, but be careful because the trunk will move when you do so.

"See how it's starting to pinch right there, when you see it closing you want to go to the other side," Rainbolt said when describing how to cut branches supporting the trunk.

Then, slowly cut the trunk into chunks.  If the tree is uprooted, pay the most attention as you reach the middle of the tree.

"You cut those, when they release its going to be like a if you know what exactly and don't read that tree right and it sling shots and hits you once again...that's not going to feel very good and could possibly cause a fracture or worse," he said about cutting in to the middle of the tree.

Rainbolt recommends cutting small, arrow-shaped chunks at the middle of the tree to see how much weight is really there, and to get a good guess of how much sling-back you'll get from the root side of the tree.

Be sure people and pets are away from the roots.

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