Cottonwood causes consternation for fire department

Staff writer

An old cottonwood tree, struck by lightning caused several days of consternation last week for the Goessel Fire Department. Things came to a head Thursday, when a passer-by traveling along K-15 Highway two miles south of the intersection with 56 Highway called in a possible fire at the tree’s location.

“We had been out five times already in the past few days,” firefighter John Unruh said. “It was just a huge tree, hollow all the way down, but we couldn’t get enough water down in there to put the fire completely out. With the high winds on Thursday we just had to get this thing taken care of before it got bigger.”

Tree owner Doug Baltzer said the cottonwood was more than 75 years old. The large tree was at least 48 inches in diameter.

“I didn’t want it cut down,” he said. “It has withstood a lot of elements, and has some sentimental value to our family.”

Goessel Fire Chief Larry Jay said the crew on the scene Thursday made a tough decision to cut the tree off about five feet from the ground. It was the only way to fully extinguish the fire that burned down in the base of the tree.

“I was real sorry it had to be done,” Unruh said. “But we really didn’t have much of a choice about it.”

Holes in the tree indicated it may have been home to a variety of wildlife, including raccoons, pack rats, squirrels, and birds.

Several hours after firefighters cut the tree down and dowsed the fire out, snakes moved back into the base of the large cottonwood.

“I guess it still serves some sort of purpose,” Baltzer said. “It’s just too bad it got hit by lightning.”

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