A heritage oak tree with a base of more than 11 feet in diameter fell Monday night, Nov. 27, narrowly missing the Atherton fire station on Almendral Avenue, Menlo Park Fire Protection District officials say.
Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman said the tree's "last act was to gracefully miss hitting the fire station. It's pretty amazing if you think about it."
The chief said the tree was there long before the Almendral fire station was built in 1937.
"I've worked here for 37 years," he said. When he was working from the Atherton station, one of his jobs "was to daily sweep up the leaves and acorns" from the tree. No one complained about the task, however, he said, because the tree provided shade for the entire station.
"Everyone's sad to have lost this old friend," he said.
The tree was on a residential property next door to the fire station. The district purchased that property in June. Chief Schapelhouman said the district cut back the tree after buying the property because the station's sleeping quarters are nearby.
The district is currently trying to figure out what to do with the home and lot, for which it paid $4.6 million. The district has said it will probably not build a new station at the location for 20 to 30 years.
The original 1937 unreinforced masonry station was replaced in 1998 after being moderately damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake.
In the most recent report about possible uses for the residential property, presented to the fire board at its November meeting, the chief said options under consideration include: using the home as a residence for a future fire chief or other district employees, leaving the house empty, demolishing the house and its pool, or remodeling it as a rental. The remodeling has been estimated to cost more than $330,000.