• 3,500-year-old tree 'The Senator' collapses in fire


    LONGWOOD, Fla.,None - Seminole County fire investigators, along with the Division of Forestry said arson has been ruled out as the cause of one of the world's oldest cypress trees in Central Florida to collapse on Monday morning.

    Investigators said they believe lightning struck the tree about a week ago and it lightly smoldered since that strike, causing it to burn and collapse.

    The tree was known as "The Senator," and was estimated to be 3,500 years old.

    Seminole County Fire Rescue spokesman Steve Wright said that the tree was hollow, and the fire burned for several hours from the inside out. 

    Firefighters arrived around 5:50 a.m. at Big Tree Park in Longwood, off General Hutchinson Parkway, and pulled more than 800 feet of hose through the woods to the fire. Wright said a 20-foot section of the tree fell off around 7:45 a.m., and the tree collapsed a half-hour later, Wright said.

    Many residents viewed the tree as a Central Florida landmark, as well as a national landmark.

    Before the days of the theme parks, The Senator was one of Central Florida's main attractions.

    "It truly is a horrible moment.  I had to come by and pay my respects.  My wife said to me, 'You're going to pay respects to a tree?'  I said, 'Yeah,'" said resident Bill Corrente.

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