The Senator: World's oldest pond cypress tree collapses after catching fire at Big Tree Park in central Florida; arson may be cause

1:06 PM, Jan 16, 2012   |    comments
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''The Senator,'' one of the world's oldest cypress trees, caught fire and collapsed in central Florida.


LONGWOOD, Florida (WKMG) - "The Senator," considered the oldest pond cypress tree in the world, collapsed after catching fire Monday morning at Big Tree Park in Seminole County, officials said.

Photo Gallery: Historic cypress tree catches fire, collapses

The top of the massive, 3,500-year-old tree could be seen burning at the park, which is located off General Hutchinson Parkway between U.S. 17-92 and State Road 427 near Longwood.

"With the fire being at the top of tree, it's unusual," Seminole County Fire Rescue spokesman Steven Wright said.

Mike Martin of the state Division of Forestry tells the Orlando Sentinel that arson may be to blame.

More than a dozen firefighters were at the park around 6 a.m., laying about 1,000 feet of hose to reach the giant tree, which Wright said burned from the inside out.

"It's a logistical nightmare," said Wright, referring to the fact that the tree is not easily accessible for vehicles. 

The tree, named after Florida Sen. M. O. Overstreet, who in 1927 donated the property on which the landmark sits, was 118 feet tall and its trunk had a diameter of nearly 18 feet. Park officials say the tree reached a height of 165 feet before a 1925 hurricane lopped off its top.

Lady Liberty, a 2,000-year-old 90-foot cypress tree located nearby, was not damaged.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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