The 118-foot, 3,500-year-old bald cypress tree was initially believed to have been set ablaze by a lightning strike at the beginning of this year. Located in Big Tree Park in Longwood, Florida, ‘The Senator’ was one of the oldest trees in the world, donated to Seminole County by its namesake, Senator M.O. Overstreet in 1927. It was considered the largest tree of any species east of the Mississippi River, and, according to the Sentinel, was the fifth-oldest tree on the planet.
The Sentinel reports that Florida police have busted Sara Barnes, of Winter Park Florida, arresting her yesterday and charging her with setting the fire that felled the majestic, ancient tree.
Barnes admitted to the police that she frequently hid out in Big Tree Park to get high. This past January 16, she lit a fire so she could see better, starting a blaze that eventually took hold of the state treasure.
Firefighters dragged more than 800 feet of hose through a mile of dense forest thicket to fight the blaze, but the hollow tree was burning from the inside out, which created a chimney effect that caused it to collapse.
Barnes had told some friends about the fire, which led to a tipster alerting the police, the Sentinel reports. When the police raided her apartment on Tuesday, they found methamphetamine, a glass pipe, and, to make matters even worse, pictures of the tree burning on both her laptop and cell phone.
A source told WFTV in Florida that Barnes had bragged to friends, saying, “I can’t believe I burned down a tree older than Jesus.”