Twice on Thursday, Aug. 9, the Norristown Fire Department responded to the same address on the 200 block of Buttonwood Street for a large tree that caught fire and then later re-ignited again.
Residents say the tree has been a constant source of worry for the neighborhood given it's size and the fact that it's completely rotted and hollowed out from the ground to about 10 feet up the trunk. It's also not the first time it's caught on fire.
"The tree's been on fire three, four times now," said neighbor Mary Homer. "It's a hazard."
"On numerous dates prior, we've responded up there for that tree on fire," said Norristown Fire Chief Thomas O'Donnell. "Today, we responded to the tree on fire twice."
Chief O'Donnell said the cause of the tree's repeated instance of catching fire is multi-faceted.
"The tree is dead," said Chief O'Donnell. "The whole inside of the tree is hollow; it's all combustible and the wood itself is catching fire. It looks like everyone's been throwing their cigarette butts in there. It's like a camp fire that won't go out. We dumped a thousand gallons of water on that tree today and it's like any other campfire – you can dump all the water you want on it and it's still going to smolder."
Code enforcement was called in because of the danger to property caused by the potential for the tree to fall.
"The [municipal] manager gave approval to Code Enforcement to eliminate the tree today," said Chief O'Donnell.
Norristown Code Enforcement Field Supervisor Michael Kinsey was on the scene, arranging for a tree removal service with the needed equipment to come and remove the tree. Kinsey said he'd spoken with the shade tree committee about the tree before and he was glad to be able to help residents take care of the problem. He told neighbors he would remain on the scene until the job was done.
"He's my hero," Homer said.