JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Taking action on a dead, dying or diseased tree could mean the difference between life or death for a loved one. The majority of trees that fall on homes are rotting inside.
Rosaleen Gallego says she was lucky the tree in her yard didn't fall onto their bedroom, especially since she's pregnant.
"To me, yes, it looked healthy, I had no idea," she said. "It fell on a normal day, there wasn't even a storm or anything, it just fell."
It fell over a fence and into her neighbor’s yard.
"It was a freak accident, I think we should pay half and half."
She says her neighbor offered $200 toward her $1,300 bill.
Former Jacksonville city councilman John Crescimbeni worked on bills to help eradicate Jacksonville of dead and dying trees. He says it's often where the tree falls that determines who foots the bill.
"Many private homeowners don’t realize, when your tree falls across a fence, like this one, it becomes the other homeowner’s responsibility," he said. "They think, 'oh my gosh, my neighbor’s tree fell on my yard, they have to clean it up', not necessarily."
When it crosses that fence, it becomes your neighbor's problem, with one exception.
"Unless you’ve given them notice that it was a potential hazard, like if it was dead or dying," he said.
Crescimbeni recommends having proof, like sending a certified letter in the mail expressing your concern about your neighbor's tree.
He says it’s also important to know which trees belong to the city.
"Anything on the street side of a sidewalk, or a utility pole, a water meter or any kind of utility or buried meter is considered city right of way."
This year, unprecedented funding was passed in Jacksonville to help remove diseased or dead trees on city right of way, but with a stipulation that a tree of the same species must be planted nearby. It was part of a settlement with a local environmental group.
Back in 2011, a young Jacksonville teenager named Aubrey Stewart was struck by a falling tree limb. Leading up to the incident, his parents had called in several complaints about the dangerous trees in the area, but when the city finally sent someone out, they cut down the wrong tree. The young boy who was injured by the tree that was supposed to have been cut down is now paralyzed from the waist down.
Today in Jacksonville, Crescimbeni says the city has a tree commission with additional funding and it has tripled the number of arborists on hand to help tackle the problem.
If you suspect a dying tree in your yard, you're urged to call an arborist.
If you see one on city property, call 630-CITY.