Aerial photo flight spots fire on couple's property

By Julia Green
Aerial photography: it’s all the rage these days. People have aerial snapshots of their homes, hometowns, alma maters, favorite vacation spots… a favorite location, shown from a bird’s eye view and framed to hang on the wall of their home.
That was undoubtedly what Eleonora and Rolf Bruderer had in mind when they drove to Sidney on July 17 to charter a small plane to fly over the Vega Valley where their house is located. And, while they didn’t end up with the experience they had imagined, they wound up with a heck of a story.
“We wanted to see the area because everything is so green and lush now and the trees are so full, so we thought it must be beautiful up there,” Eleonora said in an interview Tuesday.
Upon reaching the airspace above their residence, the Bruderers noticed a red truck parked in front of their garage. Unable to imagine who it could be, they had their pilot, Bernie Ford of Delaware Aviation, continue to fly in circles over the house while Rolf Bruderer snapped photos. Ford then pointed to a plume of smoke coming from a large maple tree adjacent to the Bruderers’ house.
“It was a funny surprise and a strange coincidence because it was the very first time we did anything like that, and it was the first time we had a visit from the fire department,” Eleonora said. “We saw this red truck, and the first thing that came to my mind was Main Care, but then Bernie saw the smoke. It was kind of, not panic, but a very strange feeling – a feeling of helplessness. You are there, looking from above, and nobody can communicate.”
The tree, which lost two huge branches during a storm three weeks ago, was likely the target of a lightning strike Thursday night, when the Bruderers say they heard an explosion and then saw a blinding light inside the house. At the time, they say, they did not detect any fire or damage.
Upon returning to the airport, the Bruderers called their neighbor, Will Patterson from Tea Thyme Herb Farm, who confirmed that he was the one to call 911 when he observed the smoke emanating from the tree trunk.
“It was great of him to call the firefighters right away, and they said he did the right thing,” Eleonora said. “It must have been something very small and smoldering, but luckily it was all very wet so it didn’t go very fast.”
She added that the fate of the tree remains to be seen; the Bruderers will wait until fall when the leaves are down to take a closer look and possible consider taking it down. And they may even return to the skies in the fall, when the fall foliage is at its peak, or during the winter, when the landscape is blanketed in white.
“The funny thing,” Eleonora added, “was the reaction on the ground. They saw this plane flying around and were saying, ‘This is spooky, who is this?’ So they were scratching their heads and we were scratching our heads up above.”
The Bruderers also expressed thanks their neighbor, Will Patterson, and the Roxbury Fire Department, who responded immediately and extinguished the fire.