World’s largest tree burl burns in suspicious fire on Vancouver Island (PHOTOS/VIDEOS)
A Guinness world record attraction in Port McNeill — the world’s largest tree burl engulfed in flames from late Wednesday night till early Thursday morning in a fire that police “deemed suspicious.”
Authorities received a report of the fire at the roadside attraction around 1:29 am.
“Both the burl and its structure were fully engulfed in flames causing extensive damage to the uniquely large spruce growth. Its protective structure was completely destroyed,” Port McNeill RCMP said in a statement.
Port McNeill’s former mayor Gaby Wickstrom told Daily Hive that the burl represents the forestry heritage of Port McNeill, adding that some in the small town saw the fire as “a very personal attack.”
“It was gut-wrenching,” said Wickstrom. “It is a quirky oddity that people love to call their own and also come to see.”
Wickstrom helped arrange the volunteer effort to bring the burl to light from an active logging site as the president of the local Chamber of Commerce in 2005.
“Some of [the volunteers] have passed actually and their children or their grandchildren are on the fire department. I heard from one that it was quite devastating for her to see that occur.”
However, Wickstrom said the fire chief told her in a text message that there might be a possibility that the burl could be saved.
This act of vandalism is heart breaking. I was the chamber president when we organized volunteers & brought the burl into Port McNeill. To some it might be a silly piece of wood, but others know this natural oddity draws visitors to our community. Such a shame.
Leena Prest photo pic.twitter.com/7n9d0KU4Pp
— Gaby Wickstrom (@GabyWickstrom) May 18, 2023
A tree burl is an irregular but usually rounded swelling on a tree trunk or stems. It is formed after insects, bacteria, fungi, or mistletoes cause disruption of growth hormones on the tree’s surface.
According to the Guinness world record, the now-charred wood structure is the largest preserved tree burl in the world, with an estimated weight of 30 tonnes.
Discovered in 2005, it was cut from a 525-year-old Holberg tree on northern Vancouver Island that was 6 m wide and 6 m tall with a circumference of around 13.7 m.
Port McNeill RCMP released CCTV pictures of two hooded suspects carrying what appears to be a yellow jerry can in the area when the fire started at around 11:19 pm on Wednesday.
Port McNeill RCMP said it is still in early investigation but believed the fire is “a deliberate act with the apparent intent to destroy the town’s prized point of interest.”