Mystery surrounds tree near I-17

Mystery surrounds tree near I-17

August 30, 2011

The "mystery tree" near I-17 has survived another fire.

It’s not often that a tree gets wrapped up in a mystery, but a lot of unanswered questions surround one Juniper growing next to I-17.

Some Arizonans might already know about the tree – it’s actually sort of famous around the state. Sitting in the middle of the median, just north of the Sunset Point rest area, around milepost 254, this is the tree that’s secretly decorated around Christmas and the Fourth of July. For years, no one has been able to figure out who is responsible.

Earlier this month something else happened that’s equally puzzling …

On Aug. 3, the 20-foot high tree survived a brush fire that had already consumed much of the vegetation around it. Flames got so close to the tree that plastic pipes situated near the trunk were melted (the pipes serve as a watering system and were put there presumably by the same people who stealthily decorate the tree each year).

The fire started about 200 feet south of the tree and forced a closure of the highway. But, according to ADOT Highway Operations Supervisor Randy Skinner , the tree, amazingly, was not harmed.

“The fire pretty much just burned up to the tree and burned out,” said Skinner, adding fire departments from Mayer and Black Canyon City responded to the blaze.

This isn’t the first time something like this has happened.

ADOT employees, who handled traffic control as the fire burned, have seen the tree somehow survive over and over again.

“In the 15 years I’ve been with ADOT, we’ve had fires three or four times a year and the tree never gets touched by the fire,” Skinner said. “For some reason this tree doesn’t burn.”

So, what do you think protects the tree? And, any ideas on who decorates it for the holidays? Leave your theories in the comments or post them over on our Facebook page!

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