OAK TREE CRASHES DOWN AT WESTLAKE APARTMENTS

Breaking limbs cause neighborhood scare

The Oak View Apartments in Westlake Village, Calif., had a shaky scare on Monday, Jan. 26th as a 120ft oak tree branch crashed to the ground.  “At first it sounded like fireworks, or gunshots,” claimed several neighbors in the first stages of the tree branch making its break.  Around 8:30 p.m. the old oak tree finally gave way and detached itself from the rest of the tree, taking out a gazebo and the other oak tree limbs next to it.  Oak_tree_fall_013The two trees combined covered 40 yards of tree shrub and debris along the apartment complex landscape.  Miraculously no one was hurt and no buildings were damaged seriously, only the gazebo.

Among the 50+ apartment homes surrounding the incident only one residency claimed to see the natural disaster in action.  Enjoying a glass of wine on their patio during the rain, Laura Goutcher and Ben Barrow were the only two people to witness the tree as it fell to the Earth.  “We heard the loudest crackling sounds and couldn’t keep our eyes off the tree as it crashed into the gazebo and took out the other oak tree branches next to it.  It was like seeing a scene from a movie,” said Laura Goutcher. “As the tree branch cracked I immediately noticed gallons of water gushing from the tree trunk where it detached,” stated Ben Barrow.

Oak_tree_fall_002The rain continued to fall while neighbors came out of their homes to see the commotion.  Many neighbors thought the initial cracking were fireworks or gunshots.  Only a few residents knew it was the sound of at least one of the old oak trees nearby.  One man inspected the trees 20 minutes prior to the final blow using his flashlight checking out several potential branches to where the noise was coming from.  A smaller branch from the second oak tree hit one buildings rooftop shaking up one family’s home.  The family in that apartment building heard the loud tree as it fell and eventually hit their roof. “We could hear the tree from outside coming directly for us,” said the mother of the residence. “I just looked at my family and said run.”

Fortunately no one was walking in the area as the tree branch fell and there was only minor damage to the rooftop of building #689.

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The light post near the main falling branch was slightly hit causing a burst of blue light as it fell creating possible hazard for any wire damage in the rain.  Authorities arrived to the scene an hour after the incident applying caution tape around the debris.  Upon arrival the Sheriff said with a stunned look on his face that he has never seen an oak tree this big break.  Checking for live wires and telephone wires, authorities found no danger to the residents after inspection.  Oak_tree_fall_025

Forked trunks are signals of potential weakness, especially when one side of the fork grows at an angle.  With stronger than normal wind gusts from the Santa Ana winds over the weekend and the recent rain, the tree limb weakened.  An incident that could have been prevented with proper inspection from a certified arborist turns out lucky that no serious damage was done.  A majority of the tree debris was picked up early on Tuesday morning leaving only the 4ft wide branch as it lay till plans are made of how to safely remove such a large mass of wood.  Residents now question if other trees in the complex are up to date with safety standards.

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Oak_tree_fall_027Story and Photos by: Laura Goutcher

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