December 15, 2010 / 8:51 PM / 9 years ago

Spoiling Christmas, thieves torch Alabama holiday tree

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (Reuters) - Thieves in Alabama torched the city Christmas tree in downtown Birmingham on Wednesday. But police denied they were would-be Scrooges. They just wanted the copper wire on the tree’s lights.

When the city fire department responded to an emergency call at 4:00 a.m., they found the 40-foot Norway spruce already 75 percent engulfed in flame, said department battalion chief C.W. Mardis.

The wiring on the trees lights was gone and, crucially, flammable liquid was found at the site. Copper thieves typically burn the sheathing off electrical wire and then sell the copper as scrap metal, Mardis said.

But the theft broke the Christmas spirit in more ways than one. Authorities noted the tree stood close to a temporary shelter for people on the streets during a winter’s night.

“Barely 100 feet away at a warming station you will find people giving comfort to those who need it and truly showing the spirit of what the season is all about,” said Chuck Faush, spokesman for mayor William Bell.

Reporting by Peggy Gargis, writing by Matthew Bigg, editing by Greg McCune

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