Vada Kolish’s two-year renovation project was destroyed in one evening after a tree split in two and came crashing down on her 96-year-old house.
“It really was looking like a home that somebody really cares about,” Kolish said. “Now it’s looking a bit like a disaster zone in the front.”
The Norway maple fell on May 28, damaging Kolish’s two-storey house at 7 Denton Ave. and her neighbour’s house on 9 Denton. Kolish wasn’t home at the time.
The tree didn’t go completely through Kolish’s house because it landed on a brick support pillar. There are cracks inside the house, half of the roof is damaged, and the porch is broken.
“I have no access to the front of my house,” she said. “I’ve had to put a doorbell on my back door.”
Kolish began renovating the outside of the house, including planting a garden in the front, when she moved in over two years ago. She said the four-storey tree was a selling point when she bought the house.
A city arborist inspected the tree in March and found no problems with it, Kolish said. Though it showed no outward signs of it, the tree was rotting on the inside. Usually severe weather or high wind speeds can cause a tree to fall down, but when this one fell, the weather was calm.
“That was what was so freaky, it was a totally calm night,” Kolish said. “There wasn’t even the whisper of a breeze.”
It’s an unusual situation, said Toronto Urban Forestry’s Richard Ubbens, as trees usually have easily detectable exterior signs that they may fall and this one didn’t.
“It’s not that we now need to be afraid of trees or anything like that, that’s not the case,” he said. “It just needs to be recognized as very unusual.”
The varying temperatures and humidity from the previous days might have contributed to the fall by placing more tension on the inside of the tree, Ubbens said.
The city maintains its trees by regularly inspecting and pruning them, he said. Tree owners should also have their trees looked at by professional arborists, he said, adding that frequency of inspections depends on the tree size, species and age.
Kolish has a similar tree in her backyard — which belongs to her and not the city — and said she asked the city arborist to take a look at it when he inspected the front yard tree. He advised her to cable it.
The front yard tree was owned by the city, but Kolish said her insurance company is covering the costs and supervising the repairs. Ubbens said its unclear right now if the city will ultimately cover the cost of repair.
Now back home after living in a hotel, Kolish said her house probably won’t start undergoing repairs until the end of June. Repairs can’t start until the engineer finishes his evaluations and draws up plans, she said. He has already inspected the house twice.
Kolish said she will have to replant her front yard garden from scratch because her original plans took into account the shade from the tree, and her plants won’t thrive in the sun. She said this will not only be a financial hardship, but difficult because she sustained a hand injury last fall. But she’s determined.
“I need to have a garden looking like a garden again, as soon as I can,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like my home unless that’s done.”
She said the city sent her a notice saying they will replant a new tree in the fall.
Still, Kolish is disappointed that the old tree is gone. She said it’s been there almost as long as the house and it added to the property’s character.
“It was a lovely sense of history about that,” she said. “Now I’m left with a stump almost at ground level and waiting to find out when that stump will be removed completely.”
– With files from Francis Crescia
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