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photo credit: Marc Albert/KRCB
Late Sunday night, a towering tree gave way in a residential part of Santa Rosa, striking and severely damaging a home as it plummeted to earth, as reported in the Press Democrat.  
While unusual, Jamie Hodge of Santa Rosa's Atlas Tree Surgery, said recent weather likely played a role.
"We had a bunch of rain, and then we had winds right after it, and then we had rain again, right, so we had saturated soils and high winds and then rain again, so it kind of perfect storm for a tree to fall over."
Cherished for the shade, habitat and oxygen they create, trees can also threaten life and property, and not just when ablaze. Hodge said there are ways to tell a tree is in poor health.
"In the summer time you want to look for browning out of your leaves, when it's green and it should be thriving and growing. In a redwood or an evergreen you would look for, y'know, the browning of the top of the tree. If the tree starts to die back, I would definitely seek out a professional."
Hodge says trees that growing a second trunk or split trunk can be vulnerable to splitting. That's something echoed by Merlin Schlumberger a board certified master arborist who teaches at Santa Rosa Junior College.
"Trees are living things and the one thing about all living things is that they will all fall over at some point."
Schlumberger said, soil conditions typically have a bigger role than species. He says its a misnomer that redwoods have shallow roots and are prone to toppling.
"Most of the roots are going to be in the top six inches of any species."
Locally, where clay impedes drainage, the soil gets saturated and roots become less of an anchor.
"So, Root damage is a big cause of tree failure you can detect, one of the ways you can look for is if you see any mushrooms growing at the base, or near the base of the tree, you may discover that that is a root rot organism."
Water, applied strategically though, can also slowly make roots stronger.
"If you irrigate the tree deeply, and let the top of the soil dry out before you irrigate next, that will encourage the roots to go down and try to find the water deeper down."
In a way, you're tricking the tree into health
"Roots are opportunistic, they will grow where there is both water and oxygen," he said. 
Another method to reduce risk mentioned by both Schumberger and Hodge, cut back long, heavy branches---having too much weight far from the trunk can leave trees unbalanced and less stable.
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