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Ashland man nearly crushed by falling tree

A 100-foot ponderosa pine fell on a house in the 600 block of Forest Street last Saturday after a wind storm with gusts of 40 mph and up.

The house belongs to Brian and Mary Gorham, both in their 80s, who live there with their white-muzzled golden retriever, Daisy.

Mary Gorham said she was cooking in the kitchen when she heard a “dreadful roar.”

“I’ve been in lots of earthquakes, and my first thought was ‘I’ve got to get out of the house,’” Mary said.

She said she called for her husband who was on his way to the master bedroom with Daisy to sit in his favorite reading chair — the very room and chair demolished by the falling tree.

Understandably shaken but unharmed, they evacuated the house.

Kelly Burns, the Ashland Fire & Rescue battalion chief on duty at the time, said around 1:20 p.m. Fire & Rescue was dispatched to the house. Another large tree had fallen across the road in the upper section of Ashland Street blocking their path to the house. The street department responded to remove the tree while Fire & Rescue rerouted.

By the time the fire crew got to the house, Burns said the tree was being removed and he couldn’t see much damage, so he sent one of the fire engines on to the next call.

“I decided to do a 360 and once I got to the side of the house, I could see the damage you couldn’t see from the road,” Burns said.

The house sits on a steep incline, so the back of the house, where the tree fell, isn’t visible from the road. The master bedroom and bathroom were destroyed, and a water pipe burst. Burns said he had all the utilities shut off to be safe.

He said the tree was about 3 feet in diameter. It snapped in half during a strong gust.

Burns said while assessing the damage his crew warily watched surrounding trees of similar height dangerously swaying in the wind storm.

“That man is very lucky,” Burns said. The tree fell directly atop the armchair he was on his way to sit in and the limbs from the tree pierced the chair, tearing it apart.

“Had he been in that chair — well, it would have been bad,” Burns said.

He said he climbed through the rubble to retrieve suitcases, clothes and some valuables for the couple, ascertaining they were OK before he left for the next call.

He said there were also multiple calls for power lines down and other non-threatening emergencies, including multiple trees fallen in roadways, that day. He said his crew responded to about 10 calls related to the wind storm within the span of about three hours.

As of Thursday afternoon, the pine tree had been completely removed, the Gorhams were already living in their home again and a team from Arruda Built Construction were working on lugging out the damage. Brian Gorham said the area of the house that was damaged including the master bedroom and bath should be back in order in about two months.

Contact Daily Tidings reporter Caitlin Fowlkes at cfowlkes@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4496. Follow her on Twitter @cfowlkes6.

Battalion Chief Kelly Burns circled the arm chair in the photo that resident Brian Gorham said he was on his way to sit in when the tree fell directly on top of it. Photo courtesy of Kelly Burns
Five days after the backside of the home was crushed, an Arruda Built Construction crew works to repair the damage. The tree snapped in half from the portion in the right side of the photo. Photo by Caitlin Fowlkes