Fire Destroys 200-Year-Old Tree In Mecklenburg County

POSTED: 11:00 pm EDT July 5, 2007
UPDATED: 11:25 pm EDT July 5, 2007

MECKLENBURG CO., N.C. -- Firefighters spent almost eight hours trying to put out a fire in a massive 200-year-old tree in northeast Mecklenburg County early Wednesday morning.

Christina Rigefsky lives next door to the tree in the Buckleigh community and remembers running out to see flames rush up the trunk Wednesday morning.

"It's just terrible for this to be destroyed," she said. "We had this gorgeous common area; at this point we don't know what's going to happen to it."

Fire officials believe the tree was accidentally set on fire while someone played with firecrackers in the Buckleigh community Tuesday night.

Called an Osage orange tree, they're usually seen only in Oklahoma and Texas.

Ed Hodges' family used to own this land before the Buckleigh neighborhood was built. He said they lost a piece of history.

"It's irreplaceable, of course," he said. "And it was absolutely huge."

The Osage orange tree is in the National Forest Registry. It's also believed this type of tree was the first plant Lewis and Clark found on their expedition west and the only to survive their trip back east