By Cailey Rizzo
October 28, 2019
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Michael Hicks/Flickr Vision via Getty Images

The world’s tallest tree house has been towering over Crossville, Tennessee for more than 25 years. But the 97-foot structure burned to the ground in just 15 minutes last week.

The cause of the fire is still unknown. “Unless somebody comes up and tells us they seen somebody doing it, you’d probably never know what started it,” Bobby Derossett of the Cumberland County Fire Department told local WKRN news.

Firefighters received a call that the tree house was burning around 10:30 p.m. on Oct. 22. But by the time they arrived, there wasn’t much they could do to save the structure.

The tree house was located about 100 miles east of Nashville and had become a tourist attraction for its record-holding size. The structure had 80 rooms across its five floors. It grew slowly over the course of 12 years, with rooms being added on as lumber was donated to the cause.

Landscaper and minister Horace Burgess began constructing what he hoped would become the world’s largest tree house in the early 1990s. When he ran out of timber, he appealed to god. And people from around the area began coming and donating their wood, the fire department confirmed to local news.

The massive structure contained several terraces, a belfry and a maze of interconnecting rooms. It was open to the public for anyone to visit for free. However the Tennessee State Fire Marshall shut down the tree house in 2012. It had become overrun with tourists and was labeled a fire safety hazard because it didn’t have sprinklers or a fire alarm. But that didn’t stop people from coming to see it unofficially.

The tree house was only labeled with two signs: “Welcome” and “No Smoking.”

But it might not be that great a loss. Burgess told the New York Times two days after the fire, “It’s always been a pain.”