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BURLINGTON, N.C. — In a way, Todd Henderson with Southern Tree Service, is watching a delicate surgery. Henderson looks on as a co-worker in a bucket rises 60 feet into the Alamance County sky to cut down a huge branch that still towers above him.

“They are so big,” Henderson said. “You got to be careful because they are so tall.”

A crane operator in a nearby truck brings the large branch to the ground by guiding it between a lamp post and a home. Once on the ground, the rest of the crew revs up their chainsaws and cut the branch into smaller pieces. Southern Tree Service is removing 11 massive trees, mostly oak, because they are a safety hazard. A certified arborist tested 26 trees in Burlington’s West Davis Street/Fountain Place Historic District. According to the arborist, 11 trees in the city’s right of way were in danger of falling. When Southern Tree Service began taking the trees down, their trunks were hollow.

“It makes them weaker,” Henderson said. “They are more likely to break in the ice or wind or no wind at all.”

The next step is to grind the tree’s stumps or dig them out. Jeff Parsons is Burlington’s cemetery and grounds superintendent. He explains the tall trees, some of them over 100 feet tall, damaged sidewalks and repairs need to be made.

“Trees do push up sidewalks and curbs as they try to grow roots,” Parsons said. “Anything in their way, they will push up or over.”

Nearby streets didn’t suffer any damage.

“When you put in a street, it is hard enough that roots can’t penetrate under the street,” Parson said.

West Davis Street/Fountain Place is known for its huge trees. Parson wishes that the trees didn’t have to come down. But the trees are being removed so they won’t fall and damage property or hurt someone.

“I live less than a mile from here,” Parson said. “We feel the same way. But we are realistic and realizing the danger they pose.”

The tree removal will cost about $30,000. Southern Tree Service will also remove broken and dead branches from trees that are in the right of way.