BRISTOL — That a 100-year-old oak tree would fall apparently surprised no one, but now that it has, the finger-pointing has begun.
“How can you know and not help?” said Sandra Ford, who lives at 207 Vistula St.
The bur oak came crashing down about 8 a.m. Thursday, landing on the home of Ford and her next-door neighbor, town council member Cathy Burke, at 205 Vistula.
No one was injured, and the extent of the damage was still unclear Thursday.
Ford, who runs a day care out of her home, said a spat with her neighbor over the condition of the old tree had slowly grown in recent weeks into threats of a lawsuit. She said more than 10 children were in the home when the tree fell.
At Burke’s request earlier this year, Ford said she collected estimates from contractors for having the tree removed, but even the lowest bid ran into thousands of dollars.
Because she could not afford the work, she appealed to the town for help, offering to make payments or have a lien placed on her property if the city would arrange to have the tree removed.
A response came earlier this week from her neighbor, who threatened to sue, Ford said.
“This reflects on her,” Ford said. “It’s a moral issue.”
Burke, who left for work just minutes before the tree fell, later said she knew the tree would eventually fall because a black fungus had developed on the trunk, a suspicion she said was confirmed by experts, which is why she urged her neighbor to have the tree removed earlier this year.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s her responsiblity,” Burke said. “It’s on her property.”
A large branch crashed through one of her walls, Burke said, and damaged windows.
This tree and others like it were planted on what was then the west edge of town in 1892, according to Burke, whose home has been in her family for seven generations. The trees remaining in that row are still healthy, she said.
Burke dismissed complaints from Ford about whether the town should have helped pay for removal of the tree.
“Cities and towns don’t make personal loans,” she said.
Donnie Greathouse, Ford’s adult son, said the roots of the tree may have been damaged a year or two ago when crews installed fresh sidewalk. He said he was glad no one was injured. His mother said she initially was freightened by the ordeal but believes she has a legitimate complaint.
“Part of me wanted to break out crying because it was a scary situation,” Ford said. “Then I was just upset because I realized I had reached out for help and got nothing.”