Residents in New Braintree are mourning the loss of a long-time neighbor, the community’s legendary white oak tree.
“It’s quite a source of community pride,” said Bert DuVernay, the New Braintree police chief. “I have received a number of different phone calls about this. The community is very upset about this.”
A fire recently burned through the middle of the tree and it toppled to the ground. The New Braintree fire chief is looking into the incident as an arson case, DuVernay said.
The chief said the massive tree’s collapse was close to a week ago, but a specific date is “largely up in the air.”
State Police detectives from the state fire marshal’s office plan to visit the scene Friday to investigate it further, he said.
The New Braintree fire chief told the Telegram & Gazette of Worcester that the fire was “intentionally set.”
“It really was quite the tree,” said Mike Lindhorst, who has lived on Pierce Street, near the towering tree, for more than a decade. He said the alleged arson is “horrible” and that it must have been committed by “somebody with no brain.”
Lindhorst lives with his wife and two children, all of whom loved the tree. He said they would go hiking with family, friends, and newcomers to the neighborhood to marvel at the massive oak.
“We go up there three or four times a year,” he said. “We’re bummed out.”
Jennifer Mieth, spokeswoman for the state fire marshal, said her office was assisting with the investigation.
“Nobody knows for sure when the fire happened,” Mieth said. “Obviously, it was a great treasure in the area.”
“It really is an incredible tragedy,” said state Senator Stephen M. Brewer. “This tree was . . . an irreplaceable wonder of nature.
“Generations of residents have visited the spot where it grew, and it holds significance in the lives of many of them,” Brewer said. “It is heartbreaking to know it is gone.”