A Southport couple and their dog were in their Willow Street home Tuesday morning when a large branch from a sugar maple tree crashed onto the roof of their historic home, dating back to 1797.

No one was injured, and even the vintage dwelling appeared to escape serious structural damage.

Some of the home's roof, gutter and trim work will need to be repaired, but overall, "They were lucky," said Jim Gilleran, the town's chief building official.

"The tree didn't significantly damage the house," said Assistant Fire Chief Scott Bisson. "There was no interior damage."

The branch partially came to rest on the main roof, as well as the lower roof over an addition.

Bisson observed that Mother Nature can be fickle. The maple tree remained intact during last weekend's blustery winds and rain, yet one of its four large branches came down late Tuesday morning, a relatively calm day. Utility wires were knocked to the street, but they were telephone and cable lines and not electric wires, according to homeowner Robert Svensk.

Bisson said it won't be known if a hole was punched through the roof until the large branch is removed.

Gilleran, however, said the home is structurally safe and the Svensks can stay put.

Based on the evidence in the tree's trunk, the branch ripped apart and came down at a modest rate.

"If it came down really fast there could have been a lot more damage to the house," he said.

Gilleran said sugar maples aren't strong to begin with, particularly when they're old.

Svensk estimated the tree is as old as his historic house. He told the Fairfield Citizen that only a day earlier, a neighbor told him that one of the tree's limbs looked like it was beginning to separate from the trunk.

Ironically, Svensk said, Fairfield Tree Warden Ken Placko was on his list of people to call Tuesday. Perhaps more ironic is the fact Svensk works in the insurance field -- Latin American Underwriters LTD. Svensk was working out of his home office when the tree branch came down, but he's planning to relocate operations to 35 Old Post Road.

"I'm trying to get my new company up and running, and it's put a bit of a crimp in my work day," he said of the mishap.

Svensk, however, took solace in the fact that an American flag, unfurled from a flagpole just over the home's entrance, was untouched. "The flag still flies," he said as he documented the scene with a digital camera.