A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

On the riverfront path: Fire in a big tree

Written June 25th, 2022 by Hasso Hering

By the side of the Dave Clark Path, there’s this fire-damaged tree.

If you go west on Albany’s Dave Clark Riverfront Path, on your right just before you cross under the Lyon Street Bridge you see this partially burned-out cottonwood trunk .

The inside of the hollow trunk is blackened by fire. For a couple of weeks or so, the hole has been protected by chicken wire, presumably to keep anyone from exploring the inside. A “danger” sign has been tacked to the tree, and there’s yellow caution tape to keep people out.

What’s the story here, I wondered every time I went past there. Then I finally asked Rick Barnett, my usual resource on issues involving the city parks. He is in charge of parks and facilities maintenance, and he’s also the city’s go-to man on questions of trees.

What happened was that a few weekends ago, the middle of the hollowed-out trunk caught fire, and the fire department responded — twice — to put out the flames. Nobody knows just how the fire started.

The fire burned down to about 5 feet below ground, but the trunk is still standing and the tree is still alive. There was one branch hanging over the path, and the parks department paid a contractor about $700 to take it down.

Removing the whole tree is not planned, at least not yet. The cost has been estimated at close to $10,000. The city does not appear eager to spend that money, especially since the tree is not even on city property. Also, it’s leaning toward the river. If it falls, in the Willamette River is where it will splash down.

This is “one of he more interesting tree issues I have run across,” Barnett said. “While multiple state agencies regulate the river, when it comes to problems that cost money to fix along the river, they are pretty silent.”

Albany has been planning on a big riverfront redevelopment project, which includes some work on the bank. Maybe this tree can be taken care of when work on that project starts, now expected in 2023. (hh)

A sign, tape and chicken wire are supposed to keep people away from the damaged tree.

12 responses to “On the riverfront path: Fire in a big tree”

  1. TOPTBOSS says:

    Wow! What ‘contractors’ is the city using? That is an absurd amount to charge and extremely questionable of the city to accept such bids.
    Contributing factor as to why the city has continued budget shortfalls from which residents must financially bail out in form of fees. SMH

    • Bob Woods says:

      Please read the entire paragraph.

      “Removing the whole tree is not planned, at least not yet. The cost has been estimated at close to $10,000. The city does not appear eager to spend that money, especially since the tree is not even on city property. Also, it’s leaning toward the river. If it falls, in the Willamette River is where it will splash down.”

      I don’t see anywhere where the city committed any money at all.

      Maybe you should dial it back instead of leaping at a conclusion without evaluating the presented facts.

      • TOPTBOSS says:

        Hey Bob! No dial back needed when the city egregiously spends money. No $10K not spent yet, will be watching to see how long it takes to remove a tree that is marked dangerous by the city. $700 is a very large sum of money to remove a branch.

  2. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    This morning I was in deep thought analyzing the legal implications of penumbras and emanations when my concentration was violently interrupted by Hasso’s fiery reporting on a tree.

    Who in their right mind lights a tree on fire? I can only conclude that we live in a savage world. I suppose it’s always been this way.

    And perhaps more puzzling is the city’s response.

    $700 to remove a branch and a reluctance to invest more to remove the burned out carcass. But it’s okay to send the high priced, PERS benefitted, AFD….twice? Hey, no problem with that logic.

    Like I said, it’s a savage world filled with lots of strange people. And local government’s reaction to them ranks a close second on the weirdness scale.

    • MarK says:

      Gordon, those were exactly my thoughts until I looked online and found that trees CAN burn from the inside out. That caused me to simmer down, hoping this was the case. Hopefully we will get more clarification on the cause.

    • Kent says:

      I think the city’s response is reasonable and any speculation why the fire started – is just speculation until we have facts.

  3. Richard Vannice says:

    I guess I’m confused – The tree in question is not on City property? The City is planning on revamping the water front and might improve the bank?
    My question is – Is the tree on City or Private property? If it’s on private property how can the City make changes to that property without the owners permission. Isn’t the owner responsible for a dangerous condition on their property?
    Just wondering

  4. Al Nyman says:

    That tree could be removed by any anybody with a chain saw. $10,000 is a total ripoff.

  5. centrist says:

    Shakespeare wrote a play
    ‘Much ado about nothing”

  6. George Pugh says:

    Since this subject hasn’t slid clear off the page I thought I would add my 2 inflated cents-worth to the discussion.
    Al Nyman says, “That tree could be removed by any anybody with a chain saw.” I take exception to that remark because my pronouns vacillate between “anyone” and “nobody.” To wit:
    In 2004 I set out to cut down an acre of hybrid poplar trees (called cottonwoods, poplars or bams locally) that had been planted experimentally in a farmed field we had purchased. They were planted on 12 foot centers which would mean about 289 trees and their survival rate seemed to be 100 per cent. Being a brilliant farmer with a chainsaw, my plan was to start in the center and work my way out by falling them into a centered pile. Well, that didn’t work quite to plan but I stuck to it.
    Some months later (working on available Saturdays) I was working on the third side of the second row from the outside and had a pretty large tree that was leaning outward. I had cleared a path away from the tree and taken my direction cut on the leaning side. When I was making my falling cut I heard a cracking sound and turned to leave.
    When I woke up, I found that my chain saw was broken as well as my left wrist and hand that was holding it. I thought my left leg was broken but it turned out that I was just bruised from thigh to foot.
    The tree had split out and kicked back faster than I could move. I have since learned that poplars are notorious for splitting and I had been lucky with the previous 194 trees.
    The lesson: hire a professional. The tree off the trail has been partially burned, which would make it even more unpredictable.
    Item 2:
    Centrist says that the subject is “Much Ado About Nothing.” There is a lot in our in lives that is much the same. But the cumulative effect is an interesting life that doesn’t need constant drama to be worthwhile.


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