An Arizona man was arrested after police said he admitted to burning a Christmas tree in the center of Mesa, Arizona, on Wednesday, Dec. 13.
The Mesa fire and police departments responded to a fire in the downtown, and when they arrived, they saw the tree already engulfed in flames, 3TV/CBS 5 reported.
Police searched the area and located 34-year-old Samuel Antone Johnson, who police said admitted to starting the fire with a book of matches.
His motive for doing so is not clear.
Johnson was booked for one count of arson and one count of criminal damage.
While fire crews were able to extinguish the fire completely, the tree was too burned to salvage.
But rather than let this dampen the city’s holiday spirit, the Mesa Chamber of Commerce started a fundraiser to replace the tree, and a temporary one has already been brought in.
— Lauren Reimer (@LaurenReimerTV) December 13, 2017
We are replacing the Merry Main Street Christmas tree, which sustained heavy fire damage this morning. #MerryMainStreet will go on with a live tree! Thanks to @MesaChamber for fundraising. Details 👇 https://t.co/vThY4VL5zA
— City of Mesa, Arizona (@MesaAzgov) December 13, 2017
“While this news is devastating, it certainly won’t diminish Mesa’s holiday spirit,” Mesa Mayor John Giles said in a press release. “The City is working on activating the site for this weekend including a live tree.”
The tree was part of a Merry Main Street in the downtown that Giles brought back three years ago, according to the chamber. When the tree was introduced in 2015, it cost $40,000.
“With this morning’s loss of that tree, a gathering spot on Merry Main isn’t so merry,” chamber President Sally Harrison said in a release. “At the Chamber, we like to say, The World Belongs to Those Who Show Up. We know the Mesa community will show up and we appreciate you.”
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