UPDATE

Mesa replaces giant Christmas tree burnt down by suspected arsonist

Posted: Updated:
The City of Mesa was proud to announce the installation of a new Christmas tree at the Merry Main Street to replace the previous tree destroyed by a suspected arsonist last week. (Source: City of Mesa) The City of Mesa was proud to announce the installation of a new Christmas tree at the Merry Main Street to replace the previous tree destroyed by a suspected arsonist last week. (Source: City of Mesa)
Over 40 volunteers and a handful of city staff installed the nearly four-story tree by midafternoon after it arrived yesterday morning. (Source: City of Mesa) Over 40 volunteers and a handful of city staff installed the nearly four-story tree by midafternoon after it arrived yesterday morning. (Source: City of Mesa)
Last Wednesday, 34-year-old Samuel Antone Johnson admitted that he started the fire to the tree with a book of matches at 6 N. MacDonald. (Source: City of Mesa) Last Wednesday, 34-year-old Samuel Antone Johnson admitted that he started the fire to the tree with a book of matches at 6 N. MacDonald. (Source: City of Mesa)
Mug shot of 34-year-old Samuel Antone Johnson. (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office) Mug shot of 34-year-old Samuel Antone Johnson. (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)
MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Thanks to the fundraising efforts of the Mesa Chamber of Commerce, the City of Mesa was proud to announce the installation of a new Christmas tree at the Merry Main Street to replace the previous tree destroyed by a suspected arsonist last week.

Last Wednesday, 34-year-old Samuel Antone Johnson admitted that he started the fire to the tree with a book of matches at 6 N. MacDonald. He did not provide a motive for his actions.

Johnson was booked for one count of arson and one count of criminal damage.

[ORIGINAL STORY: Suspect admits setting fire to Mesa's giant Christmas tree]

The City of Mesa quickly replaced the destroyed tree with a temporary live tree at the site. However, with the installation of the new tree, the temporary one will be moved to the newly renovated Pioneer Park.

"We are appreciative of the efforts of the Mesa Chamber of Commerce taking the lead on raising funds to purchase a new tree," Mesa Mayor John Giles said in a news release. "Their members purchased the original tree three years ago, so it was only fitting that they once again rise to the occasion to keep the holiday spirit in our downtown festival."

Over 40 volunteers and a handful of city staff installed the nearly four-story tree by midafternoon after it arrived yesterday morning.

"We received donations from all over the country including Washington, Utah, Virginia and many other states," Mesa Chamber President and CEO Sally Harrison said. "We appreciate all the businesses that have stepped up to date as well as many of our community members to help replace the tree. We are still a few thousand dollars shy of our goal so we encourage those still interested to go to our website to give."

To celebrate the new tree, the City and chamber announced a "season of giving" partnership with the United Food Bank taking place this Friday at the Merry Main Street Christmas tree. Those attending Merry Main Street to check out the new tree can receive a $2 off discount coupon for ice skating at the Winter Wonderland Ice Rink when they bring four cans or packages of non-perishable food to donate at the tree.

"We are excited to be partnering with the City and Chamber and to be at Merry Main Street," United Food Bank CEO David Richins said. "This is a time of year that we have many needs and it is also a time of year that people tend to think of others. We encourage everyone to come check out the new tree and donate to help others during the holidays."

For more information about Merry Main Street, visit www.merrymainst.com.

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