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Emergency Tree Removals

My tree is an immediate hazard! Can I take it out immediately?

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What Is an "Immediate Hazard"?

Generally, an immediate tree hazard is when a tree suddenly starts uprooting (cracks appear in the soil) or a tree suddenly starts splitting (fresh, white sapwood is visible in tree cracks) where the main branches connect to the trunk. 

Key Points: 

Immediacy: If there is time to go through the normal timeline and permit process, it is not an immediate hazard. For example, dead trees are often not an immediate hazard. Immediate implies imminent. 

Proportional: For example, if a large branch breaks it may be considered an "immediate hazard", but if the rest of the tree is still standing solidly it is not considered a tree removal emergency. A proportional response may only require a pruning of that limb to reduce the immediate hazard. 

What is a "Retroactive Permit"? 

In special emergency circumstances a permit can be applied for after the work is carried out.

  • You have 7 days to apply for a retroactive permit.
  • Retroactive permits will only be approved for tree work to remove the hazardous portion of the tree.
    • An example is if a tree has a hazardous limb, that requires pruning that limb, removal of the tree would not be permitted.
  • See Report a Tree Emergency for more information. 

Why Is This Important?

  1. Emergency tree work must be justified, and proportional to the immediate risk to people or structures. 
  2. The City requires a permit for any regulated tree removal, or other work ( Pruning, etc.) 
    • Street Trees: Title 11.40.040
    • Private Trees: Title 11.40.050
    • Emergency situations happen and can require immediate action, however this work must still be permitted, even if after the immediate hazard has been corrected. 
  3. This after the fact permit is referred to as a "retroactive permit". Be it a retroactive Removal and Replant, or a retroactive Pruning permit.
  4. For a retroactive permit be approved it must be established to have been an emergency based on City of Portland Title 11 criteria.  

If it is a Street Tree

Call Urban Forestry at 503-823-TREE (8733). Emergency dispatchers are available 24/7.
An Urban Forestry arborist will be dispatched to mitigate the hazard. If follow-up is required, an Urban Forestry Tree Inspector will conduct a site visit and contact the property owner.

If it is a Private Tree

If a tree is an immediate hazard, the hazardous portion may be removed before obtaining a permit in order to eliminate a clear and present danger to structures or people. This provision exists to protect human life and property from imminent tree failures where there is not enough time to obtain a tree permit through the normal process. Only the hazardous portion may be removed prior to obtaining a permit. 

Required Emergency Removal Application

Anyone who removes a regulated tree on an emergency basis is required to apply for a retroactive Tree Removal and Replanting Permit within 7 days of removing the tree. The application fee is still required.

  • Photographs or other documentation (such as a report by a certified, practicing arborist) must be included in the application packet to prove that an emergency existed. 

If the Tree Inspector agrees, given the evidence, that an emergency did exist requiring the immediate removal of the tree in question, a retroactive Tree Removal and Replanting Permit will be issued.

If the Tree Inspector finds that no emergency existed and there was sufficient time to obtain the removal permit, the removal will be considered a violation of Title 11 Chapter 11.70 and the property owner will be required to correct the tree code violation


Read the Tree Code, Title 11