Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
Frontier Army Museum staff weren’t expecting anything out of the ordinary when they arrived for work at 8 a.m. July 15, but that all changed around 8:30 a.m.
“It was rainy, but it wasn’t really storming outside,” said Megan Hunter, FAM museum specialist. “Christian Roesler, (FAM museum specialist), and I were sitting here in the staff office, and we heard a crack that we thought was thunder. We both looked outside, and then about two seconds later we heard a big boom and the building shook.
“We knew immediately that was not thunder, so we ran up to the window and … we saw this huge branch on top of the building,” she said. “The first thing that we did was contact (Directorate of Public Works), and their staff immediately started to assess the building as much as possible.”
After receiving the call, DPW Operations and Maintenance Manager Jerry Clark said the first thing staff did was look for any possible safety hazards.
“(The tree branch) had ripped some of the electrical wiring off the side of the building that supported the air conditioning units, so the first thing is to make the job site safe,” Clark said. “Once the job site was safe, the Roads and Grounds guys just started cutting the tree up to remove it off the structure.”
Clark said the roofing contractor with DPW also assessed the building, fixing the five small holes found once the tree was fully removed.
“They were all here within less than 30 minutes,” Hunter said. “They were super quick.”
The branch, which came from a 50-year-old silver maple on the east side of the building, fell from about 25 feet above the roof of the museum, according to Kyle Fratzel, DPW equipment grounds work leader and certified arborist.
“(Carpenter ants) had eaten out most of the inside of that branch, so it just took that last straw from the storm to cause it to break and fall off,” Clark said. “With all the mature trees on post, it’s not uncommon because you can’t see internal insect damage.
“You can’t do a thump test like a watermelon. There is no X-ray. There’s nothing short of just drilling into the tree and checking what it is inside,” he said. “We do have a tree maintenance program … where we look for things like deadfall — a broken branch that is hanging up in the tree — or we look for trees that are diseased or in disrepair, and that’s when we decide to remove them.”
Hunter said museum staff asked DPW to check other trees surrounding the museum.
“We want them to look at some of the other trees around the building to make sure that it doesn’t happen again because, what if it goes through the roof (next time),” Hunter said. “The whole building is just covered with collections, macro artifacts, wagons and more, so we lucked out this time, but since where it fell was almost right on top of the collection storage, if that would’ve gave, 96 percent of our collection could’ve been lost.”
If a similar event happens on post, Clark said the best number to call to report the incident is the DPW Service Order Desk at 913-684-5555. Depending on the situation, whether a government building or a private residence, depends on the amount of the work DPW performs.
“That’s the fastest way because that phone is always answered 24/7, and then we get the call,” he said. “We (at least perform) the emergency response. We make it safe. We may not remove everything, but we’ll get it to a safe point where (an outside contractor) can finish the job.”