Off-duty Sunderland firefighter praises people power response to clearing fallen tree in Storm Arwen damage

People power did the job to clear a busy Sunderland road after Storm Arwen blew into town.

Wednesday, 1st December 2021, 5:00 am

High winds battered the city over the weekend and brought a tree crashing down across the roundabout at the junction of Tunstall Road, Belvedere Road and Thornholme Road in Ashbrooke.

Off-duty firefighter Chris Smith spotted the damage and took it upon himself to clear the road. What happened next took him by surprise and gave his faith in human nature a welcome boost.

Chris spotted the fallen tree on Saturday morning and reported it to the city council – but with staff prioritising danger to life and vulnerable residents, decided to have a go at clearing it himself.

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"I was going to a meeting on Saturday morning, saw the tree and reported it to the council,” he said.

"But when I came back, it was still there, so I thought ‘I’m just going to try to clear it as best I can’.”

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"Even if I was just able to get some of the branches off, it would mean that when the council were able to come out, the job would be a bit easier.”

The fallen tree in Tunstall Road, Sunderland.

Chris had only been at work for a short time when he found himself with help: “I must have been working for about 15 minutes when this bloke stopped his car and said, ‘I’ll give you a hand’,” he said.

"Two minutes later, another couple stopped their car and started in with helping us – before I knew it, there must have been ten or 12 people there.”

Chris managed to flag down a van from locally-based ALM Tree Services who offered to finish off cutting up the tree and disposing of the waste timber.

"They stopped and came over with a chainsaw,” said Chris. “They said ‘We’ve got a trailer, so we can cut it up and take it away’.”

People join together to help clear a fallen tree in Tunstall Road.

Chris was delighted by the way people had rallied round to get the job done: “It is part of my job to help people and I just wanted to do something, but it was really lovely to see the community all pulling together,” he said.

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The fallen tree being removed from Tunstall Road.
Work to clear the fallen tree in Tunstall Road.