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Jan 17, 2012


By now, many Floridians have heard the shocking news regarding the state's largest and oldest tree, a Bald cypress known as "The Senator" and "The Big Tree," located in Seminole County (central Florida).

On the morning of January 16, 2012, the 3,500 year-old tree, standing 165 feet high, caught fire and smoldered, collapsing to the ground.  Though fire crews promptly responded to intervene, they could not save the old giant, and unfortunately, a piece of Florida's natural history has been forever lost.  Only 25 feet of charred wood remain where a magnificent old giant once stood.

This morning, the St. Lucie County Fire Department was called to a tree fire in White City Park (Treasure Coast).  Witnesses state that early morning fisherman lit a sable palm stump on fire, reportedly to "keep warm."  The irresponsible fire-starters then simply packed up and left the scene as the stump smoked heavily, having done nothing to put out the embers.  Passers-by called the fire department for assistance, and within minutes, fire fighters arrived to quell the smoldering and ensure another tree fire wouldn't happen in Florida today.

What were those fisherman thinking?  They were fishing on the banks of the St. Lucie River, only feet from where the stump was, but they couldn't bother to scoop a bucketful of water to pour over the fire they started?  What sort of people do things like this - or rather - what sort of people won't clean up after themselves, endangering others and threatening yet another park with a forest fire of human making?



Though fire authorities in Seminole County have preliminarily ruled out arson as a cause of the fire which engulfed and destroyed one of Florida's natural history landmarks, there had been reports of people camping in the woods without permission, setting fires for warmth and to cook.

What were these people thinking?  Florida is suffering a 10-year drought, one of the worst in known recorded history for the state, turning everything into tinder.  Worse, we're in the normal dry season (winter), when authorities plead with residents to resist the urge to burn anything outside.

All of these things are known to everyone - the public is bombarded by messages from well-meaning public officials, civil servants, and non-governmental organizations such as science and conservation entities reminding Florida's residents and visitors that the state's flora and fauna are vulnerable now, especially because of the drought.

And yet, "The Sentator" likely burned because of human carelessness, and a palm stump mere feet away from a river was left to burn after it "wasn't needed" by whomever set it alight.  Thankfully, other park patrons didn't hesitate to do the right thing, and the county's fire department wasted no time arriving and rendering the smoldering stump inert.

Personal responsibility toward the environment and parks in general has apparently hit an all-time low, as evidenced by this and so many other incidents that occur each day.  How can we as a species continue to pretend as though our actions have no consequences, or that the consequences aren't meaningful?

Please - don't start fires.  If you are absolutely must start a fire, make sure you are in a location with access to water and sand to put out the fire properly before you leave.  We are all responsible for our actions, and we all suffer the consequences of those actions, whether it makes the news, or not.



 

Visibility: Everyone
Posted: Tuesday January 17, 2012, 7:50 am
Tags: forest trees fire parks ecology disasters arson fires selfishness carelessness drought human-induced [add/edit tags]

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