Above, An estimated 50-foot-tall tree split and fell in two locations Saturday on South 7th Street, including onto a vintage home. No one was injured although an unidentified woman was transported to the hospital suffering from anxiety after the morning incident that officials suspect was caused by a combination of gale-force winds and undetected tree rot.

Wind gusts: Old tree splits, falls onto historic 7th Street residence

October 09, 2013
Santa Paula News

By Peggy Kelly

Santa Paula Times

Wind gusts estimated at 60 mph combined with rot was the probable cause that split an approximately 50 foot tall tree in two and it came crashing down on a vintage South 7th Street home Saturday.

According to Santa Paula Acting Fire Captain Jesse Phillips, the incident occurred October 5 shortly before 11:30 a.m.

When the SPFD arrived at the scene of a reported tree down at 112 S. 7th St., Phillips said firefighters found an approximately 50 foot tall tree that had split and fallen in two huge pieces.

“Police were already on the scene and the tree was already down.... it was a pretty big tree, massive actually,” that had been located in the southeast corner of the Union Bank building at the corner of East Main and South 7th streets.

SPPD Sgt. Scott Varner and Officer Hector Ramirez had evacuated the multi-family dwelling after the first incident where part of the tree fell onto the parking lot and sidewalk.

Phillips said, “The rest of the split tree was wavering” but held until after police cleared the two-story home of residents.

When the remainder of the tree fell, Phillips said it “crushed both overhangs of the house,” as approximately seven of the residents watched.

One unidentified middle-aged woman was transported to Santa Paula Hospital for anxiety caused by the incident. 

Chief Building Official Mike Leach was also summoned to the scene and the structure was red-tagged, displacing four families living in the converted single-family home.

“When the debris was cleared we determined there was structural damage,” to the home, specifically, “The pillars that hold up the front porch and roof near the front of the house. We have four families that had to be relocated that right now are staying at other places until we can determine exactly what the problems are.”

Leach estimated that the house that faces Ebell Park could be as old as 100 years: “I would guess it has to be somewhere in that range based on the river rock foundation.... I would say it was one of the original houses in town. And that tree had been shading it quite some time.”

The tree was found to be rotten: “The bank had it trimmed and topped not too long ago and there were no indications to make them think there was anything different until the wind started blowing 60 miles per hour,” velocity Leach said was reported for gusts during Saturday’s gale force winds.

“When we were standing around a couple of gusts came up and shook you off balance,” he noted.

Leach did not have a damage estimate or when the residents can move back into the home until he meets with a contractor hired by the building owner.

Phillips said the incident was just one of numerous calls SPFD responded to during the windstorm of Friday and Saturday: “We had so many calls, lines down, false alarms from smoke detectors going off, we had some cable and phone lines down but no power lines. Amazingly, for the first big day of winds we didn’t have a fire.

“We’ll see what happens in the next wind,” said Phillips, as “everything goes haywire.... “

The winds, said Leach, “Made a mess out of everything.... “

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