The Senator Cypress Tree

January 16, 2012 by staff 

The Senator Cypress TreeThe Senator Cypress Tree, An early morning fire – suspected to be the work of an arsonist – has destroyed one of the world’s oldest cypress trees and a Seminole County landmark that sprouted some 3,400 years before there was a Seminole County.

Officially named “The Senator,” it was simply “The Big Tree” to most Central Floridians.

It was named after the man who donated what is now Big Tree Park to the county, Moses Oscar Overstreet, a state senator from 1920 to 1925.

Firefighters responded to the park on General Hutchinson Parkway about 5:50 a.m. and had to string more than 800 feet of hoses through the woods to reach the fire.

At about 7:45 a.m., a 20-foot section of the top of the tree fell off, Seminole County Fire Rescue spokesman Steve Wright said. By 8:15 a.m., more of the tree had collapsed.

“It’s a nightmare,” he said.

Later, a Sheriff’s helicopter was used to dump water on the smoldering tree.

The tree burned for several hours from the inside out – almost like a chimney, Wright said.

While Wright initially said it appeared that there had been a brush fire that spread to the tree, a state forestry official said it is more likely that twigs and debris were piled at the base of the tree and ignited.

“From my observations it appears to be arson,” said Mike Martin with the state Division of Forestry. “It looks like the fire was concentrated right where the tree was.”

There have been reports of homeless people hanging around the park, leading to speculation that the fire could have been started by someone trying to stay warm. But Martin said it is unlikely that anyone setting such a fire would do it so closely to the tree.

Martin said law enforcement investigators with his agency will handle the case.

Once the fire was out, about 20 to 25 feet of the tree was still standing, Martin said.

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