Electrical Malfunction Blamed for South Coast Plaza Christmas Tree Fire

Fire and Christmas trees don't mix.
Fire and Christmas trees don't mix.

UPDATE, DEC. 17, 11:51 A.M.: An electrical malfunction has been deemed the preliminary cause of the fire that torched the 96-foot Christmas tree outside Westin South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa early Monday, according to city officials. The burned-out remains were transformed into a 70-foot holiday display with the tree's trunk "repurposed for the maypole-inspired contemporary design,'' according to South Coast Plaza officials, who add about 8,000 multi-colored LED lights from the tip of the trunk form the shape of a tree.

ORIGINAL POST, DEC. 14, 12:49 P.M.: A 96-foot Christmas tree outside Westin South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa was destroyed in an early morning fire today, but officials doubt foul play as the cause and the hotel is already vowing to save the holiday display.

A maintenance worker and a valet parker (who apparently works that early) called 9-1-1 at 6:34 a.m. to report the blaze that started after witnesses heard a loud pop and saw flames about two-thirds of the way up the tree, according to Costa Mesa Fire Capt. Chris Coates.

"You could see the smoke column from miles away," he added.

South Coast Plaza officials plan to have the white fir's branches shorn off so the trunk can be salvaged as a sort of post to house Christmas tree lights, Coates said.

The fire's cause is under investigation, but "preliminary indications are not leading us to believe it's suspicious in nature," Coates said. "However, you can't rule that out right now."

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