UNC’s ‘Davie Poplar’ expected to survive fire attack

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – After a fire and device exploded on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s campus – a historic tree is getting a lot of attention.

Legend has it if “Davie Poplar” falls, the University will crumble.

“Something bad could’ve really happened,” said UNC freshman MaCaire King.

King is one of dozens of people that stopped at “Davie Poplar” to take a picture Friday.

“I’ve sat under that tree many times,” UNC professor Reid Barbour said.

The centuries-old tree is a landmark on UNC’s campus.


It’s one that students and staff, including Barbour, pass every day.

“It’s just a really beautiful tree, and why someone would attack a really beautiful tree is beyond belief and beyond understanding,” he said.

The tree and its surrounding area is now a crime scene. Crews inspected the tree Friday morning after flames climbed one side of it the day before.

“This is the best case scenario,” King said. “There could’ve been so much more that occurred because of this.”

UNC Media Relations sent CBS North Carolina a statement saying that the tree should be fine:

The University arborist has examined the Davie Poplar tree, damaged during a fire after a small device was detonated yesterday afternoon, and reports the damage appears superficial. ‘I’m confident the tree will be fine,’ said Tom Bythell, University Arborist. A Grounds Services technician also plans to apply a preventative treatment this afternoon to protect the tree from insects.”

Less than 24 hours after the incident, crews tried to determine how the fire started.

They found books, light bulbs, and what they believed to be hair left behind at the scene.

Crews said a protectant would be put in it to ensure it continues to stand in McCorkle Place.

“I know that they’re going to do everything that they can to help this tree,” Barbour said.

“It really is a horrific thing, but I think in the long run of the University it will really just go to show resilience,” said King.

A professor was injured in the explosion. He said he suffered first and second-degree burns.

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