Trees topple into family’s backyard |

Trees topple into family’s backyard

Gary Kank

At what point is a tree more important than human life?

This is a question John and Kim Hilpert posed after two trees came crashing through their backyard Wednesday, destroying their 5-year-old daughter’s swing set.

“There’s pieces of bent steel where my daughter was playing an hour before,” Kim said. “You look at that damage and know that a 50 pound little girl would’ve never made it.”

At approximately 12:40 p.m., with winds ranging from 20 to 30 miles an hour, two trees in a neighboring yard snapped about 30 feet from the base and toppled into the Hilpert’s back yard, crushing a wooden shed and the swing set.

The Hilperts, who have lived in their home on South Shore Lane for 3 1/2 years were shaken and upset, but also relieved no one was hurt.

“Someone’s watching out for us,” Kim said. “It easily could’ve been an hour earlier when she was out there.”

The Hilpert’s daughter attends afternoon kindergarten at Tahoe Valley, beginning at 12:20 p.m.

According to the Hilperts, California Department of Forestry officials surveyed their property last week after they had called them with concerns about trees they thought posed a threat in the area. John said officials deemed the trees healthy and therefore could not remove them from the property.

“Everyone’s lives are in jeopardy and they won’t let me remove these trees,” said the shaken father of two. “I hope to get the TRPA out here next month.”

According to Tahoe Regional Planning Agency guidelines, any tree on private property that is larger than 6 inches in diameter requires a permit to remove. The TRPA will administer a permit for removal if a registered professional forester surveys the tree and determines it is unsafe.

In regard to a tree that poses a possible threat to a structure, the TRPA looks at the distance the tree is from the structure and if it is causing any damage to the structure. If it is far enough away and does not present a hazard, the tree will remain standing.

Nancy Rule who lives next door to the Hilperts said, “Don’t get me wrong, I like trees, but when it comes to human life, that’s a different story.”

With the National Weather Service reporting gusting winds over 40 miles an hour in high Sierra elevations, residents of Lake Tahoe woke up to cooler temperatures Wednesday. While the high winds caused damage, forecasters say they should let up by this afternoon and Lake Tahoe should begin experiencing warmer temperatures into the weekend.

This should ease the nerves of the Hilperts and their neighbors.

“What happened today was too close for comfort,” said Kim. “Every time the wind blows hard now, I’m going to be thinking about it.”

The California Department of Forestry was unavailable for comment.

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