World's largest tree house burns to the ground

The treehouse was engulfed in flames by the time firefighters arrived.

October 23, 2019, 10:48 AM

The world's largest treehouse was reduced to ashes Tuesday night after an uncontrolled fire raged through it, the fire department said.

The Minister's Tree House stood at 100 feet and, with terraces and staircases, spread across seven massive trees. It was a landmark in the city of Crossville, Tennessee, about 100 miles east of Nashville.

Officials received a call that it had gone up in flames at around 10:30 p.m. local time. By the time firefighters got to the scene "it had already fallen down," Bobby Derossett, a spokesman for the Cumberland County Fire Department, told ABC News on Wednesday.

"You're just looking at a black spot on the ground," he said.

PHOTO: The Minister's Treehouse in Crossville, Tenn., July 14, 2012.
The Minister's Treehouse in Crossville, Tenn., July 14, 2012.
Michael R. Hicks/Getty Images

Derossett said firefighters could only let the remaining flames burn out and then clean up the area. Officials also managed to contain the flames so the fire would not spread into the woods, according to an incident report from the fire department.

It was not immediately clear what started the fire, but Derossett said there were no electrical fires or storms that night that could have sparked any flames. He added that the fire's cause might never be known.

"Unless somebody comes up and tells us they seen somebody doing it, you'd probably never know what started it," he said.

No injuries were reported.

PHOTO: The Minister's Tree House in Crossville, Tenn. burned to the ground, Oct. 22, 2019.
The Minister's Tree House in Crossville, Tenn. burned to the ground, Oct. 22, 2019.
Charlie Lawson/Facebook

Landscaper Horace Burgess first had the idea to create the world's largest treehouse in the early 1990s. After running out of lumber, he said he turned to God in hopes of a miracle.

"And the spirit of God said, 'If you build me a treehouse, I'll never let you run out of material,'" Horace once said, according to tourist site Roadside America.

Burgess did not immediately respond to a request from ABC News.

The fire department spokesman said the treehouse was made of lumber scraps people gave to Burgess over the years.

PHOTO: The Minister's Tree House in Crossville, Tenn. burned to the ground, Oct. 22, 2019.
The Minister's Tree House in Crossville, Tenn. burned to the ground, Oct. 22, 2019.
Charlie Lawson/Facebook

It would eventually become a tourist draw in the small city in east Tennessee.

"Everybody knew about the treehouse. They'd come from all over the country to see it," according to Derossett.

The treehouse became so overrun with tourists the Tennessee State Fire Marshall labeled it a public safety hazard and closed it in 2012, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.

It never reopened, but that didn't deter people from trespassing.

"Unless you've got somebody guarding it all the time," Derossett said, people would find a way inside.

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