Fire destroys 800-year-old pioneer sequoia tree at Samuel P. Taylor State Park in Marin County

MARIN COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) – A tragic loss in North Bay, where one of Marin County’s last remaining ancient redwoods was destroyed by fire this week. The Pioneer Tree inside Samuel P. Taylor State Park was hundreds of years old. Firefighters think illegal camping might be to blame.

“He’s lost forever,” Marin County Fire Chief Jason Weber said.

Fire crews were still at the scene of a blaze Friday that destroyed an iconic part of Samuel P. Taylor State Park, known as the Pioneer Tree. The loss is as massive as the mighty redwood itself.

“It’s like losing a family member to staff and to community members,” said California State Park ranger Vince Anibale.

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Anibale says Pioneer Tree was one of the few remaining old growth redwoods in the park. Pictures show the tree before the fire, standing 200 feet tall and at least 800 years old.

“It’s just upsetting because they are so old and so big, they have a great life, so to lose one is a disappointment,” added Anibale.

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“The tree collapsed while our people were there due to the amount of fire inside the tree,” Weber said.

Weber believes the blaze, first discovered Thursday, was likely started by illegal camping.

“Not only is it illegal, it’s just plain stupid. We’re in a prolonged drought, people need to be protected from the fires,” Weber said.

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For some visitors, the loss was so great that they brought flowers to the front door kiosk, even a condolence card.

Park volunteer Kathryn Dunning shared photos of herself standing inside the beloved tree.

“I walk the trail once a week, I’ve been inside the tree, and so have my grandkids and my friends. It’s a great loss,” Dunning said.

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The tree has survived other fires before. Park rangers are now seeking information on who may have started the fire. But for now, it’s time to mourn the loss of a very old friend.

“A beautiful redwood tree eight feet in diameter is irreplaceable,” Weber said.

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