Ancient Cypress Tree Destroyed in Seminole County Fire

Estimated to be more than 3,500 years old, it was known as "The Big Tree"

Monday, Jan 16, 2012  |  Updated 11:20 PM EDT
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Seminole County Fire Rescue spokesman Steve Wright, left, watches as Florida Department of Agriculture investigator D.M. Shaw peers into the smoldering base of one of the world's oldest cypress trees at Big Tree Park in Longwood, Fla., Monday. The 118-foot-tall bald cypress tree named "The Senator" caught fire early Monday.

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One of the world’s oldest cypress trees went up in smoke in Seminole County Monday, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

The tree, estimated to be more than 3,500 years old, was officially named The Senator but was known simply as “The Big Tree” to most people in Central Florida, the newspaper reported.

It was about 165 feet tall before a hurricane lopped off its top in 1925. But after an early-morning fire Monday, only 20 to 25 feet of it is still standing, Mike Martin of the Division of Forestry said.

Firefighters responded to Big Tree Park at about 5:50 a.m. and ran hoses more than 800 feet to reach the fire, which burned from the inside out almost like a chimney, Seminole County Fire Rescue spokesman Steve Wright told the Sentinel. About two hours later a 20-foot section of the top fell off, and by 8:15 most of the tree had fallen.

“It’s a nightmare,” Wright said.

The cause remains undetermined, but a Division of Forestry investigator has ruled out arson.

The Big Tree was the largest native tree in the state, according to the Florida Forest Service.

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