Meth User Burns Down World's 5th Oldest Tree

By Will Godfrey 02/29/12

A young woman who climbed a 3,500-year-old tree to smoke meth is arrested after a predictable outcome.

The Senator's demise: one way to see
what you're doing
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There are some amends you just can't make. A 26-year-old woman was arrested in Florida yesterday for burning down the fifth oldest tree in the world. "The Senator," a famed bald cypress in Big Tree Park, Longwood, Florida, was once used by the Seminole Indians as a landmark; surviving hurricanes and lightning, it stood proudly on the site for an estimated 3,500 years. That is, until this January 16, when unemployed, reportedly sometime-nude model Sarah Barnes clambered into The Senator's majestic branches to smoke some meth with a friend. The result was a blaze that burned the ancient tree "from the inside out," reports say, leaving a smoldering stump just 20 feet tall. Authorities announced they were looking for an arsonist and Barnes—who now admits to lighting a fire so she could see what she was doing—was arrested after some anonymous tip-offs. She hid her face as she was led away in handcuffs. Barnes apparently took pictures of the burning Senator and downloaded them onto her cellphone and computer, showing her handiwork to friends and exclaiming, "I can't believe I burned down a tree older than Jesus!"

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Will Godfrey is the former editor-in-chief of TheFix. He was also the founding editor-in-chief of, and previously co-founded a magazine for prisoners in London. His work has appeared in Salon, Pacific Standard, AlterNet and The Nation among others. He is currently the Executive Director at FILTER. You can find Will on Linkedin and Twitter.