MOUNTAIN COMMUNITIES — American Tree Medics is deploying several strike teams which will include tree experts, medics, and military veterans to help residents prepare for the latest round of storms hitting the Central Valley and the Sierra.
“In January, our office here in Merced was flooded by Black Rascal Creek, and our tree equipment was literally dead in the water,” says Heidi Britt, CEO of American Tree Medics. “There were trees and branches everywhere, on houses, streets, cars.” “We reached out to our neighbors to provide free tree risk assessments and help evaluate trees on properties that people thought might be dangerous and at risk of dropping limbs or falling over,” Britt says. “Some of our staff are military veterans and medics, and they jumped to help people stuck in their homes.”
In anticipation of the next atmospheric river set to hit Northern California today and through the rest of the week, she says American Tree Medics’ certified arborists and tree risk assessors are again preparing to help Merced and the foothill communities weather the storm safely. Tree medics have been deployed to Mariposa, Oakhurst, North Fork, Coarsegold, Sonora, Merced, and Modesto.
Tree medics are certified arborists and tree experts, trained to identify and triage trees on public and private property that are showing signs they might fail or have been damaged and pose a risk to people, homes, cars and driveways and public roads. They are also first responders, usually mobilized to wildfires, to help communities clear roads and properties so residents can safely evacuate or shelter in place until the emergency is over.
“We spent New Years Eve and day removing trees from homes in Portland, OR, some of which were blocking doors and other exits to homes,” Britt says. “A couple of days later we got the call to head back to Sacramento. It looked like a bomb had gone off there. Within the week, we were back home to Merced, Oakhurst, and Mariposa. We have been helping our local communities clear out and dig out since then.”
One evening in late February, James Romero — one of the co-owners of American Tree Medics and a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom — got a call from a property owner in Oakhurst who had a tree fall on their renter’s porch blocking a door. Romero was snowed in at his own home in Ahwahnee and had several trees blocking his driveway and the county road he lives on.
“I called her to make sure she was safe for the evening and didn’t need immediate rescue,” Romero reflects. “Early next morning, I was out there with my chainsaw clearing my road to get out.”
Romero says to reach the home located off Road 426, he had to take a detour to avoid a large oak tree that was blocking Road 426 at Golden Ball Drive. When he finally made it to the property, he found a 70-foot live oak had split and fallen in three directions. One of the spars landed on a balcony and blocked a door. The spar had also knocked a nearby pine over, causing that tree to rest on the roof. Despite the deep snow and weather, Romero had the home cleared by the afternoon.
Mariposa residents might have recently seen tree medics 4×4 trucks on local roads. Two tree medics in Mariposa County are delivering food and wood to those stuck in their homes because of driveways and roads blocked by feet of snow.
In Merced, tree medics and office admin team members have been helping locals clean up from the previous storm. Now, they are helping bag and deliver sandbags, evaluating trees ahead of the next deluge, and are trying to get the word out that tree medics are available.
“Everything we can do to help, we want to do,” Britt said. Residents who are worried about their trees and whether they pose a risk in this upcoming storm, or even after the storm passes, are encouraged to call American Tree Medics to talk to an arborist about their options.
About American Tree Medics
Founded in 2015 to address drought effects on trees, ATM Inc. specializes in helping communities and residents care for their trees in all conditions and prepare trees to withstand fluctuating environmental conditions – drought, extreme heat, wildfire, high wind events and major storms.
ATM Inc. has since become the fastest growing environmental and arboricultural consulting firm in the United States (Inc Magazine’s Inc 5000 Companies in 2020, 2021 and 2022). ATM Inc. is woman- and veteran-owned.