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After series of accidents, one fatal, NH officials warn tree trimmers to be safe around power lines

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

State officials and utility companies are warning Granite Staters about the dangers of trimming trees next to power lines, after multiple incidents where workers were shocked.

Paul Kasper, who leads enforcement for the New Hampshire Department of Energy, has to do an investigation every time someone comes into contact with electricity. He says he’s had to more than normal recently, after five tree trimmers were shocked in the last few months. In one of those cases, a worker died at a Nashua home, he said. That incident was in May.

Usually, utility companies will put protective covers on wires that run near trees when people are working on those trees. Utilities could also disconnect the wire, or cut down a portion of the tree or the whole tree, to make the situation safer.

But, Kasper said, smaller, private trimming companies have not been reaching out for that help.

“If you're going to do any kind of tree trimming, look around you,” he said. “And if the wires are close or go through that tree, call the utility. They'll come out. It's free. They’ll put cover up for you.”

Eversource and Unitil are partnering with the state on the safety campaign.

Utility representatives say it’s important to remember trees themselves can conduct electricity, and if any part of a wire is touching a tree, people should avoid it.

They also say only qualified professionals should be hired to do tree trimming work. Painters, siding professionals and anyone else doing elevated work on a home or business should be careful with power lines, too.

Mara Hoplamazian reports on climate change, energy, and the environment for NHPR.

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