Woman accused of burning one of world’s oldest trees

March 1st, 2012 - 12:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Miami, March 1 (IANS/EFE) American authorities announced Wednesday that they had arrested a 26-year-old woman for burning down The Senator, one of the world’s most ancient trees at some 3,500 years old.

Police arrested Sarah Barnes Tuesday evening as a result of information provided by locals in the central Florida town of Longwood, where the tree stood, as well as the earlier identification of the woman by two witnesses.

The Senator was one of the largest and oldest trees in the US at 36 meters high and 10 meters in diameter, although in the past it had stood about 50 meters high until a hurricane broke off the top in the 1920s.

Experts determined in 1946 that the huge tree was about 3,500 years old, making it the country’s oldest cypress and one of the longest-living trees in the world.

During the fire, which occurred Jan 16, Barnes took photos of the flames with her cell phone and after her arrest she told police that she regularly went to the tree site to use drugs and lit the fire so she could see but it got out of control. She did not alert the authorities about the blaze.

Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service said that Barnes showed several friends a photo of The Senator burning and said: “I can’t believe I burned down a tree older than Jesus.”

Barnes is accused of burning public property and, in addition, she is facing charges of possession and intent to sell drugs.

Before the case was solved, investigators considered different theories, eventually coming to believe that lightning during a recent electrical storm in the area had sparked a fire inside the tree that took several days to develop and actually burn it down.

Authorities came to that initial conclusion because the trunk of the pond cypress was burned out from the inside and there were no indications that the fire began outside the tree. Also, the fire did not affect any of the trees around The Senator.

–IANS/EFE
rd

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