Thursday, December 26, 2002

Tree men come home

Published in the Current

After 15 days in North Carolina, four workers from Bartlett Tree Service in Scarborough returned home Dec. 23, just in time for Christmas.

“It’s good to be home,” said Troy Delano just after getting his suitcase off the baggage carousel at the Portland Jetport. It was the longest he had ever been away from home.

His wife is due to give birth Dec. 31, and she was waiting eagerly for his return, hoping she wouldn’t go into labor early. “I was having some faith,” she said.

The men pulled 10-hour days from the beginning to the end, with no real time off. “We worked right straight through,” Delano said.

It was only fitting that the men head south after a Dec. 4-5 ice storm knocked out power for over 2 million North Carolina residents and damaged buildings and cars, resulting in a federal disaster-area declaration for the region.

Some of the North Carolina workers had come to Maine in 1998, to help clean up things after that year’s ice storm, and Delano said he ran into a North Carolina man who had worked with him then. “It was good to go down.”

This year’s task was both harder and easier than the one four years ago. Warmer temperatures meant the ice had melted, but “they have very large trees,” Delano said, because of the longer growing season.

The men were working to clear roads and power lines of trees and downed branches, but couldn’t take care of everything. “There’s still a ton of damage,” Delano said. “There’s still limbs on houses.”

By the middle of the first week they were there, all of the power was back on, Delano said, and workers remained to help with the rest of the cleanup.

They were originally slated to come home Dec. 20, but chose to stay longer to get more done. The people they met were very supportive.

Delano and Bill Reed went into a store to pick up some food and other items, and the man behind the counter gave it all to them free, and thanked them for their hard work.

“People were very generous,” Delano said.

Tim Lindsey of Bartlett Tree Service said he was glad to send workers down to help out, though Pat Lindsey, who also works at the business, said the men would have to work a half-day on Dec. 24 to meet the needs of customers who have been patiently waiting for tree work here in Maine.

North Carolina tree companies paid for their flights, and made sure that they made it back on time and in style. “They flew back first class,” said Tim Lindsey.