After a fallen tree destroyed her home on June 25, a Fort Madison woman is trying to find help for its removal, while remaining trapped inside.
Karen Houston, 62, has been in a wheelchair for over 14 years. Age and rotting caused her neighbor’s tree to collapse her roof and the front porch where her wheelchair ramp was located. She immediately contacted the American Red Cross in the hopes that she could find some help.
“If there was a fire in that house, she would die because there’s no way to get out of that house without going down a bunch of steps into the backyard,” said Barney Oldfield, a Red Cross volunteer.
When Oldfield responded to the disaster, he had to crawl through the tree’s branches in order to get inside. He said when she tried talking to the neighbors about removing the tree, they didn’t have the insurance to do so.
“It was rotted, and it should have been taken down a couple years ago, but it’s not my tree,” Houston said. “It belongs to the neighbors.”
The Red Cross provided Huston with a money voucher that she could use toward some of her immediate needs, “and that’s helped quite a bit,” she said.
After responding as a Red Cross volunteer, Oldfield still went above and beyond his line of duty to help.
He immediately went to the fire department, and they said someone would come over to assess the damage, but later decided they couldn’t do anything about removing the tree; they did not have enough volunteers to haul it away.
He then contacted two more organizations in the hopes of finding Houston more assistance, but tree removal is a difficult task. Finally he contacted a Community Action office in Burlington, where he knows many of the employees, including the director. He spoke with the weatherization department, and they agreed something needed to be done to help Houston.
Although Community Action cannot remove the tree from her home, they will provide the necessary items to replace her wheelchair ramp.
Recently, Houston got in touch with a man who said he would volunteer his time and equipment to remove the tree from her home, but she is still waiting for results.
“I’m still searching for people to help her out,” Oldfield said. “This woman really touched my heart.”
Editors Note: According to the Fort Madison Daily Democrat, city officials are working with Houston to remove the tree.