San Francisco fire investigators are looking into whether someone intentionally set fire to the Presidio's beloved Spire sculpture by Andy Goldsworthy, a tall wooded beacon in the park since 2008.
The fire was reported about 5:42 a.m. Tuesday near Inspiration Point and the Arguello Gate. Flames could be seen leaping from the 100-foot sculpture which Goldsworthy constructed of 35 fallen Cypress trees salvaged in the Presidio.
The blaze set numerous spot fires around the area, which firefighters spent the morning dousing. The art piece suffered extensive damage.
"The entire structure is damaged by the fire," said Presidio Fire Marshall Matt Kiolbassa. "There is some charring and discoloration that runs the entire height of the structure."
Although badly burned, Presidio officials were encouraged the Spire was still standing. Forestry crews were set to examine the piece to see if was stable enough to remain in place. The installation is among three site specific art pieces the British artist created in the Presidio and is beloved by people who frequent the park.
"It's the coming together of human nature and creativity," said Nick Galli, who surveyed the blackened structure from across the street.
But with the fire department looking into whether the fire was an act of arson, Galli was disheartened at the thought someone would intentionally damage the art.
"That's what it reminds me of now," Galli said, "it reminds me of basically there's always going to be people out there that are going to destroy beautiful things."
Goldsworthy intended for the structure to be permanent, in the way any other tree or shrub is permanent. He expected the piece to eventually break down along with the forest around it.
"I know it was supposed to break down over time," said Michele Trufelli, who was walking past the installation. "Pretty sure this wasn't the intention."
Kiolbassa said he hoped the piece could be saved and continue to serve as a beacon of art, in a setting of nature.
"I can't even imagine the park without it," Kiolbassa said. "So it would be a tremendous loss."