Guess that's a testament to hard Oak for ya. Soft Pine. Your cousin sounds a bit lucky. Fate gave him the cabin surrounded by Oak.
That's what I want to see(if you don't mind), is a picture of your cousin's cabin and that oak still standing next to it. Couple photos of the areas that got scorched would be nice too. If it's not asking too much.
Your cousin is lucky. The oak held up pretty well on Old Ironsides as well.
Don't believe me, eh?
Here it is (cropped for obvious reasons, and I'll pull it later) but you can see it above the cabin in the back there, and that was a few years after the fire, and it was just getting growing again. You can see a large branch on the ground. That was one of the branches that didn't make it, and came down later.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention that a metal roof had been put on just a year or so before the fire. Had they been cedar shake, as many are/were, I'm sure the outcome would've have been different.
This was one big fire. Check this out. (Yes, in the lower right hand corner is San Diego)http://map.sdsu.edu/fire2003/movies/Cedar.mov
Why are oaks fire resistant?
* The thick bark of oaks is very fire resistant and has low thermal conductivity so that heat does not penetrate well to the living tissues underneath.
* Oaks form dormant buds at the base of the trunk. These buds are protected from fire by the root collars. These dormant buds are below the soil surface where they are protected from the lethal effects of fire. If the stem is killed by fire, one or more of these dormant buds grow.
* Oak saplings become resistant to fire when they are smaller than those of other tree species.
* Oak saplings subject to periodic (annual) fires produce extensive root systems even if top-killed. These large root systems permit better growth of shoots in fire-free years.
* Tree competitors are destroyed by fire, thus permitting selective oak reproduction.