Lumberjacks’ graceful aerial dance makes dangerous work look easy

Dingmans Ferry. Recent powerful storms have kept Blue Ridge Tree Service busy removing trees from along roads, near power lines, on houses, and from all the other places they land.

| 08 Oct 2021 | 07:50

Precision, perfection, perseverance. Daniel Pirl, owner of Blue Ridge Tree Service, said these qualities account for the meteoric success of his tree service in Dingmans Ferry.

Pirl comes to the tree-cutting business from a career as a mechanical engineer. He has a solid background in computerized numeric programming (CNC), in which he made custom prototype instruments for the medical industry. His experience in manufacturing taught him how to streamline a process to reduce waste and achieve maximum efficiency.

Not surprisingly, he is a perfectionist and a workaholic. In six years he created a business that employs a team of five tree-cutters and four office staffers.

He started with two trucks and now has an impressive array of them, including a Kenworth logging truck, two International forestry boom trucks — one with an elevator lift and one without, a Kenworth with a 23-ton, 142-foot Terex crane, and a Dodge 5500 with a Cummins engine, a Palfinger hook and go container, a few dump trucks, and a stump grinder.

The business surged when Cyclone Quinn hit on March 3, 2018. Pirl and his crew were out helping folks 24/7, removing trees from along roads, near powerlines, on houses, and anyplace else they landed.

And during the pandemic, when people were home and becoming better acquainted with their trees, the business saw a tremendous rush for their services.

A little help from family and friends

Pirl pays homage to his mentor and friend, Leonard Roe, who taught him the business and especially how to climb trees. Roe was a pro with decades of experience — his dad owned Paul Bunyan Tree Service in Branchville, N.J. A little memorial table at the entrance to the Blue Ridge office displays a photo of Roe.

The office is run with the same efficiency as the lumberjack team. They double-confirm appointments and call after the job is done to make sure customers are happy.

Eunice Predmore, Pirl’s mother, is the office manager and also a registered nurse. Ann Marie Sorensen, a close family friend, is the secretary and also a teacher. She shares her job with Tracy Pirl, Dan’s aunt, who also works at the Milford Diner.

Warren Predmore, Pirl’s stepfather, works as a job estimator for the team. Pirl’s six-year-old son, Christian, knows how to run a mini-excavator and is getting familiar with the communication helmets.

Pirl’s older son, Austin, 23, just graduated from college, lives in Matamoras, and is not in the business.

The team

The team works like any one of their well-oiled machines. Pirl figures out the logistics — how and where to place people on his team, and how the job is going to be managed and executed.

Ropes and pulleys are very dangerous, and a lot of tree removal work happens high in the air.

“There is a different skill matrix for each person,” Pirl said. “One person climbs, another is in the bucket another operates the saw and chipper, some catch the huge logs as they fall with ropes and pulleys and carry them to the trucks, and some know how to back up the gargantuan trucks and position them properly.”

To watch the team in action is like watching dancers moving to a syncopated rhythm, with Pirl as the conductor. It’s an amazing sight to see.

The team works very quietly. This may be because Pirl’s brother, David, is hard-of-hearing. He wears a cochlear implant but can read lips and knows American Sign Language.

Most of the crew can communicate with sign language as well as eye and hand signals. There is hardly any shouting.

David Pirl participates fully with the team and, because he is also a gifted mechanic, he keeps the equipment up and running.

Katlyn Werner has been with the team for almost two years. She had worked on a horse farm in Wantage, N.J., before becoming a lumberjill (the female term for lumberjack came from World War II Britain).

Pirl says Werner is the right person for the job because she is intelligent, observant, and motivated. She’s “right there” all the time and works around the clock.

For Werner, being a lumberjill is not a feminist statement. She would probably prefer the term lumberjack. She just loves plants and animals and is at home working in the woods. She has developed a passion for the business as well.

Pirl says he strives to do high-quality work at fair prices.

“Old-fashioned perfection with modern techniques is our slogan,” he said. “It’s how we operate on a daily basis and it’s our road to continuing success.”

Blue Ridge Tree Service is developing a following not only in Dingmans Ferry, but also in Milford and other areas of Pike County.

“Blue Ridge is extremely professional and thorough,” said Karen Kontizas, a local resident. “I would not have anyone else on my property. They did three major jobs for me, and Dan and his crew are amazing.”

“There is a different skill matrix for each person; one person climbs, another is in the bucket another operates the saw and chipper, some catch the huge logs as they fall with ropes and pulleys and carry them to the trucks, and some know how to back up the gargantuan trucks and position them properly.” Daniel Pirl