CARMICHAEL (CBS13) – With fire season in full swing, taking preventative measures is top-of-mind for homeowners and insurance companies. But finding a company to do the work amid the labor shortage could be challenging.

“We got a large mature valley oak in the back with a lot of end weight,” said tree trimmer Max Echols in Carmichael.

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He has a crew, but he’s always looking for more.

“It’s really hard to find tree climbers,” he said.

Apprentice climber Nathaniel Rader is up in the air while Echols oversees on the ground. Echols is providing the same on-the-job training he received years ago from a certified biologist and arborist.

“There is no factory, no institution that is making tree climbers. The only way to have a tree climber is to hire one that has already been trained or train them yourself,” he said.

Tree climbers have to be a cut above. It’s skilled labor.

“You need to at least have a rudimentary knowledge of tree biology to know where you need to make cuts, [and] why you don’t make certain cuts,” he said. “Be physically fit and understand physics…to understand the forces you’re putting on a tree with vectors and line tensions and how far you can go out on limbs.”

“I inadvertently fell into it, I would say,” Rader said.

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He finds it fulfilling.

“For one, I really like trees,” he said.

And he’s put in the time and energy to branch out.

“I was willing to invest in myself,” he said. “I bought my own equipment — I practice on the weekends.”

He can’t get trained fast enough. Companies say this is one of the busier times of the year as people clear defensible space around their homes during fire season.

Echols says most companies don’t invest in climbers because it takes time and money and, well, they could make like a tree and leave.

“It’s something that’s needed in this industry — some kind of trade school to teach people how to climb because companies don’t want to do it,” Echols said.

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Atlas Tree Academy in Northern California is one of a handful of places to receive certification statewide.