Tree falls on power lines, hits car, starts fire in Phila.

Tree falls on car in West Mount Airy

July 5, 2012 8:25:37 PM PDT
A very old, very large tree fell into a West Mt. Airy street Thursday afternoon bringing down wires, sparking a fire, and crushing the car of a man who was just driving by.

The tree that fell across Wissahickon Avenue, between Upsal and Horter, was so big, specialized equipment had to be brought in to cut it up.

The tree fell before 4:30 p.m., taking with it two utility poles and knocking out power to 390 PECO customers.

But the power outage was the least of Kevin Devlin's worries.

The tree landed on Devlin's Volkswagen Jetta, as he was inside the car, driving it home from work.

"It was a loud crack, I think the tree came down, probably from the storms, and brought the power lines with it, and the second everything came down, flames shot up, and I just sat there for a minute, having no idea what was going on," Devlin said.

Devlin climbed out his passenger side window even as flames from the wires shot up right next to the car. He was not injured.

Once out of the car Devlin said he called his wife, who was at home just down the street.

"It was not my normal drive home from work," Devlin said adding that, before the accident, he was "making great time" home from work.

Neighbor Stephanie Wolf says the fallen oak was likely 300 years old. She and her husband now own their home on property that was once a wood lot for the historic Upsala mansion.

And she says knowing how old the trees are, they're very careful about having them trimmed and inspected regularly.

"We've been having tree work done all along. Last fall, we had two trees almost that size taken down because they didn't look too healthy. This [tree] looked extremely healthy," Wolf said.

A tree expert on the scene to help with the cleanup confirmed what Wolf said. But, once the trunk splintered, he pointed out a white line inside the trunk that indicated disease.

Unfortunately, it was not something that an inspector would be able to see.

By 6:30 p.m., PECO had restored power to 330 of the 390 customers affected.

Shortly after that, Devlin's car was pulled out of the mass of branches; the windshield shattered and roof deeply dented on the driver's side.

The tree took out two poles and a mass of wires.

PECO says those people without power should get it back in the morning.