The high cost of landscaping is a problem for wildfire defense

Self care
Self care
Image: REUTERS/Marc Serota
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Yard debris like dry leaves, branches, and unkempt trees are a fuel for wildfires to spread quickly and ferociously. California law requires property owners in fire prone areas to maintain their properties in order to slow or stop the spread of wildfires. And as wildfires come more frequently and more intensely, the necessity of every homeowner to maintain their property becomes more important.

But helping fight the spread of wildfires costs money. According to a report by the Oakland Firesafe Council, the cost of hiring tree trimmers and pruners was the number one reason why homeowners did not maintain their properties. For some homeowners, the costs to maintain their property can mean spending several thousands of dollars at a time. Few people—let alone a 94 year-old—can afford that no matter how necessary it is.

People’s lives are at risk as increasing numbers of buildings are being destroyed in the fires. Budgeting for tree maintenance stretches money thin for those with lower incomes. Assistance for poorer homeowners is needed, not only for wildfires but for adapting to other impacts of climate change as weather becomes more extreme.

Landscaping and gardening costs have become more expensive

Data show US homeowners are having to pay increasingly more for landscaping services. US landscaping and gardening costs grew 39% from 2010 to 2020 according to the Bureau of Labor statistics. In July 2021 alone, gardening and landscaping services costs increased by 1.7% compared to the previous month.

How much does it cost to maintain trees?

According to Angi, consumers have doubled their spending on tree trimming jobs in the last 5 years, most likely due to a combination of higher prices for equipment and labor and consumers choosing to spend more. “Much of this increase – roughly 60% year over year – came in 2020, when consumer spending shifted to the home and there was a notable increase in the shortage of skilled labor,” said Mischa Fisher the chief economist at Angi.

Currently, Angi estimates most jobs to maintain or prune trees and shrubs fall between $200 and $760 and average $460. The cost ranges due to the type, size, health, and location of the plants. Tree services often charge by the hour, averaging between $50 to $100 per hour. If the trees are near power lines, prices are typically higher.

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Tree removal costs more than trimming and pruning, averaging around $1,300 for a large tree. Stump removal can add another $65 to $350 depending on the dimensions and location of the stump. Removing fallen or dead trees will likely cost between $75 and $150 but can reach $1,500 or more for taller trees that exceed the capacity of typical equipment.