Fallen tree limb damages Northeast D.C. church

UPDATE: The city remained quiet about this until 7 On Your Side stepped in. Watch Kris Van Cleave's update on the case here.

The seemingly never-ending line of storms that has knocked out power and thrown debris across the greater D.C. area, but for a church in Northeast D.C., the damage one tree caused could have been avoided, they say.

For Pastor Frances Taylor-Brown, it isn't just that a giant tree limb fell and hit the corner of Purity Pentacostal Deliverance Center in Northeast Washington. It's the fact that the entire ordeal could have been avoided if her her calls to cut back the tree had been answered.

Taylor-Brown says that for a decade, she has been pushing for the tree to be pruned, and after it lost another big limb in the June 29 derecho, she pleaded with crews to take the tree down.

"They were already here...why couldn't they take this limb?" Taylor-Brown said.

She says that in a June 5 email from the Ward 5 D.C. Council office, officials made a promise that a city inspector would look at the tree by June 26 and determine whether or not it needed to go.

As far as she knows, that inspection never happened, and three days after that deadline in the letter, the strong storm sent a limb crashing down.

"It could have gone through the roof of the church, but it came down on the corner, and we are thankful for that," Taylor-Brown said.

Pepco says that the tree in question belongs to the District and that they have no records of complaints about the tree over the past three years. In general, though, Pepco says that they only prune or remove trees if they pose a direct threat to power lines.

They only trim with the permission of the tree's owner as well. Regardless of the dispute, a small community church is still left with a big mess and big, unanswered questions.

"I feel as if the city let us down (and) Pepco let us down," Taylor-Brown said.

In response to the church's claims, DDOT spokesperson Monica Hernandez said that the agency has seen an unprecedented level of storm damage, especially from trees, from the unusually violent string of storms. She says DDOT has worked diligently to resolve all known issues.

"Since June 22, we have continued to work to resolve all associated issues with the three events that have occurred following the storms," Hernandez said. You can see DDOT's full statement to ABC 7 News on the next page.

DDOT's Urban Forestry Administration says it's on call 24 hours a day to respond to emergencies regarding falling trees or debris.

DDOT's statement on the criteria of removing a dangerous tree:

The standards that Urban Forestry Administration follows is the same as all arborists across the entire world, literally. The International Society of Arboriculture is the only organization that is viewed internationally as the leaders in our industry. Every arborist we have is certified through ISA to be an arborist and we always follow ISA and ANSI standards (as determined appropriate by ISA). Most of our arborists are also Tree Risk Assessor Certified, which is highly regarded as the most appropriate certification to assess a tree’s risk. The following is taken straight from ISA’s website.

To earn an ISA Certified Arborist® credential, you must be trained and knowledgeable in all aspects of arboriculture. ISA Certified Arborist® have met all requirements to be eligible for the exam, which includes three or more years of full-time, eligible, practical work experience in arboriculture and/or a degree in the field of arboriculture, horticulture, landscape architecture, or forestry from a regionally accredited educational institute. This certification covers a large number of topics giving the candidates flexibility in the arboricultural profession. A code of ethics for ISA Certified Arborists® strengthens the credibility and reliability of the work force. This certification is accredited by the American National Standards Institute, meeting and exceeding ISO 17024.

DDOT's statement on requests to examine trees near the Purity Pentacostal Deliverance Center:

The District has experienced unprecedented storms that have effected trees in DC as well as throughout the region. We are working hard to resolve the issues these natural events have created. These storms have been very powerful and not the normal pattern the region has experienced before. Since June 22nd we have continued to work to resolve all associated issues with the three events that have occurred following the storms.