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Omaha ends debris pickup & processing; lumber companies likely won’t take fallen trees

Published: Jul. 29, 2021 at 3:00 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The City of Omaha is ending its curbside pick-up of tree debris Friday and will also shut down dropoff sites at Hefflinger and Levi Carter parks at 7 p.m. that same day.

But there are still many homeowners who have large limbs in their yards.

Some sawmill owners in our area tell us they have been getting calls inquiring about selling the wood from the fallen trees, but they tell 6 News that’s a deal that just won’t be made.

Earlier this month, hurricane-force winds knocked over Heidi Lowe’s 80-year-old oak tree.

“It was just beautiful, and now we’re going to have to start over again,” she said.

Now the family has a big old oak tree tumbled over in the yard. Lowe thought she could interest someone in coming to take it away.

“I’m actually thinking of trying to find a lumber company because you have 80-year-old oak with 20 or 30 feet of truck, and with lumber the way it is now...” she said.

The local sawmills 6 News spoke with said there’s not a big market for trees that fall during a storm.

“The tree’s only worth what it’s worth to the homeowner, not necessarily to a company,” said Ron Bolejack, owner of Knotheads Wood Services. His company has a sawmill and makes furniture, cuts firewood, and wood to cook with.

“Residential wood is not normally a purchased item because there’s too many variables,” he said. “The knots in the wood, could be iron in the wood, could be fence post — the nails people put in the wood, it kind of kills off the tree.”

Bolejack said a lot of downed trees could be cut for firewood, but then you have to be careful about what that firewood could carry to your home.

“Keep in mind: decay — it’s a problem,” he said. “Then you got the ants, you got the bugs — those types of things in it. They’re looking for a new home, and if you just transport that next to your house, that’s not a good idea.”

Bolejack is a third-generation woodworker and advised trying to repurpose the fallen trees if you can; that’s where homeowners will find the value.

Three weeks after the storm, Lowe’s downed tree is still on her lawn and might end up as firewood. She said losing the tree was emotional but that there’s new life growing again after the disaster.

“I have one little sign of hope: All of my flowers that get destroyed over there on the sidewalk, they’re starting to come back up,” she said. “They’ve been run over, smashed by the tree and bobcat running up on them, and they’re still — they’re still coming back.”

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