A historic cypress tree, thought to be one of the oldest in the world, is no more after catching fire and being destroyed early today. "The Senator," or "The Big Tree" as Central Floridians called it, was estimated to be 3,500 years old in 1946. "It's a nightmare," says a Seminole County Fire Rescue spokesperson. A state forestry official initially suspected arson, saying that it appeared that twigs and debris were deliberately ignited at the tree's base. But the department said in a statement this afternoon that it's "ruling out arson at this point."
The tree was named for the state senator who donated Big Tree Park to the county. Firefighters arrived at the park around 5:50am and used more than 800 feet of hose to reach the tree. But by 7:45am the top of the tree had fallen off. More of it collapsed 30 minutes later; it continued to burn from the inside out for several hours, leaving no more than 25 feet still standing by the time the fire was extinguished. The tree was once 165 feet tall, before the top came off during a hurricane, the Orlando Sentinel reports. (Read more trees stories.)