The world’s largest tree burl, an iconic Port McNeill attraction, has been badly damaged in a suspected arson attack.
Known as the Ronning Burl, it caught fire just after 11 pm Wednesday night. By the time fire crews arrived on the scene, the viewing platform was already destroyed, and the beloved burl was engulfed in flames.
A security camera caught video of two people near the burl around the time of the blaze. One is carrying what looks like a fuel jerry can.
A burl looks like a massive tumour on a tree trunk. It’s caused by a defect in the wood’s cells. Western Forest Products loggers discovered the burl on a 525-year-old Sitka spruce near Holberg in 2005.
They cut the burl out of the tree trunk and trucked it to Port McNeill, 70 kilometres away.
The burl weighs an estimated 30 tonnes and stands 6 metres. It’s officially recognized in the Guinness Book of World Records, but the blackened behemoth is now badly damaged.
“This act of vandalism is heart breaking,” former Port McNeill mayor Gaby Wikstrom said on Twitter while the big burl was still smouldering Thursday morning.
Wikstrom was president of the town’s Chamber of Commerce when the burl was discovered and championed its potential as a tourist attraction.
Small town BC has a thing for big things. Duncan is home to the world’s largest hockey stick. The world’s largest pair of cross-country skis live in Salmon Arm. The logging and mill town of Mackenzie has the world’s largest tree crusher as its claim to fame. Houston (BC, that is) has Canada’s largest fly fishing rod.
Port McNeill has its record-breaking burl, so big that the only place it could be displayed in the town without removing powerlines was on the edge of a dusty parking lot on the edge of town.
“To some, it might be a silly piece of wood, but others know this natural oddity draws visitors to our community,” Wickstrom Tweeted.
Thanks to CCTV photos of the area, Police reportedly apprehended the suspected vandals.
They have now been released and will face a later court date for their alleged crimes pending charge approval.