’Tis the season for hot chocolate, bright, twinkly lights, and of course, giant Christmas trees. This holiday is not a favorite for everyone, however. This year, one man proved to be a real “Grinch” when he burned down a $40,000 tree.
The tree belongs to the city of Mesa, near Phoenix, Arizona. According to TIME, the “Merry Main Christmas tree” is a staple for the city and is always present at their annual Christmas celebration.
This year, however, the four-story-tall tree was burned down. The fire took place on Wednesday morning around 2:30 a.m. and authorities had reason to believe that it was an intentional fire.
Now, 34-year-old Samuel Antone Johnson has been arrested. Police say that the suspect was near the tree when the fire took place.
Johnson reportedly set the Christmas tree on fire with only some matches. He has been arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and arson.
So far, police have not found a motive for the burning. Little information has been given about the future for Johnson and it is still unclear whether or not he has a lawyer to represent him.
Meanwhile, the city of Mesa is now frantically looking for another tree to replace their current one. The annual Christmas celebration in Mesa includes a holiday market and an ice rink. It used to be a tradition in the city until it was cut in 2005. In 2015, the tradition returned.
The $40,000 Christmas tree was reportedly purchased in 2015 when the event started back up. It was purchased by the Mesa Chamber of Commerce and through private businesses.
Members in the city of Mesa have kept their spirits high, despite the loss.
Mesa Police said, “Despite Johnson’s efforts, Christmas is not lost in Mesa.”
Sally Harrison, the president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, said, “It’s just sad. We’re going to bring Christmas back. This really stinks, but we can do this. We will have another tree.”
Mayor John Giles said, “It’s obviously a very sad situation. The tree was absolutely beautiful…Christmas is not going to be put on hold.”
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