The Senator was the biggest and oldest bald cypress tree in the world, located in Big Tree Park, Longwood, Florida. At the time of its demise, it was 125 feet (38 m) tall, with a trunk diameter of 17.5 feet (5.3 m). The tree was thought to have been destroyed by a fire from a lightning strike, but it was later discovered that the fire was started by an arsonist.
On January 16, 2012, a fire was reported at the top of the Senator tree, which burned from the inside out, “like a chimney.”Firefighters arrived to try to extinguish the blaze, but the tree collapsed. The charred remains of the tree now stand only 20 to 25 feet (6.1 to 7.6 m) tall.On February 28, 2012, The Florida Division of Forestry said they arrested Sara Barnes, age 26, in relation to the fire of The Senator. Barnes said she was a drug abuser who regularly went to the tree site when the park was closed to consume illegal drugs. On the night of January 16, 2012, Barnes lit a fire with debris so that she could see the drugs she was going to use, but the fire got out of control. Officials said that they found images of the fire being started on Barnes’ laptop and on her cellphone. When an arrest warrant was served at her home she was also charged with possession of methamphetamine.
In 2014, Barnes was sentenced to 30 months in prison, with the sentence suspended if she could successfully complete five years of probation. However, in October 2015, Barnes was arrested again on other charges, violating her probation. Jailed in December 2015, she went to trial in March 2016. On March 31, 2016, Barnes was found guilty, her probation was rescinded and she was ordered jailed for 30 months, with approximately 10 months credit for time previously served.