AU releases statement on fire damage to Toomer's Corner oak - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

AU releases statement on fire damage to Toomer's Corner oak

(Source: Rosanna Smith) (Source: Rosanna Smith)
AUBURN, AL (WTVM) -

Auburn University officials have released an update on the condition of the oak tree set on fire late Saturday night at Toomer's Corner. 

Gary Keever, professor in Auburn University’s Department of Horticulture, released the following statement on the oak’s condition.

"At this time, we know that the upper canopy, the lower canopy on the northwest side, and the base of the trunk were burned. Based on the leaf curl and off-color of the foliage in parts of the canopy, these leaves will drop over the next several days. We plan to use a lift to inspect the shoots in the canopy early this week. The full extent of the damage won’t be known for several days to several weeks, and perhaps not until we see regrowth in spring. Based on the initial appearance of the tree, I don’t think the fire has killed the tree; however, aesthetic death, when the tree declines to such an extent that it detracts from the landscape and there is little chance of it returning to its full grandeur, may warrant consideration of removal as a result of this act, but it is premature to discuss removal."

Later on Sunday, Auburn University issued the following press release on the oak's condition: 

The future of the live oak tree at Toomer’s Corner that was intentionally set on fire early Sunday morning will not be determined without closer inspection.

Professor of Horticulture Gary Keever will use a lift to get a closer look at the tree’s canopy as early as Monday morning.

“From the ground we can easily see damage to the leaves and base of the tree. It is significant,” said Keever. “I expect the foliage will continue to drop. The full extent of damage may not be known for several weeks. The best case scenario would be to see a flush of new growth next spring, but right now it’s too early to tell how the tree will respond.”

Landscape crews will need to replace irrigation pipes that watered the tree through the heat of the day, as much of it was melted by the intensity of the fire.

The Auburn Oak, located on the Magnolia Ave. side of Toomer’s Corner, was damaged following Auburn’s win over LSU Saturday night. It was the second celebration since Auburn resumed the rolling tradition this fall.

Auburn University will provide updates throughout the week on the extent of fire damage at www.auburn.edu/oaks. 

Law enforcement confirms 29-year-old Jochen Wiest from Auburn is in custody and is suspected of being connected to the intentionally set fire at Toomer's Corner. Capt. Dorsey says he is not an AU student and was identified with the help of witnesses.

Further investigation resulted in Wiest being identified as the individual responsible for setting the fire and a warrant was obtained for his arrest. He was arrested while incarcerated in the Lee County Jail on the prior charge and his bond was set at $1,000. 

Rolling the famous trees on Toomer's Corner, located on the corner of West Magnolia Avenue and College Street,  has been a tradition since the early beginnings of Auburn athletics. In 2011, the tradition was shuttered with a man poisoned the trees, eventually killing them. The trees were later replanted and in 2015, kickstarting the tradition again. 

This is developing story. Stay tuned for more details. 

[SLIDESHOW: DAYBREAK SHOWS DAMAGE FROM FIRE AT TOOMER'S CORNER]

POLL: Following the fire set at Toomer's Oaks in Auburn, do you think the tradition of rolling the oaks after an Auburn Tigers home victory should continue? Click here to take the poll. 

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