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Man Arrested in ‘Malicious Arson Attack' on Fox News Christmas Tree

Videos posted by witnesses to social media show thick clouds of black smoke coming from the tree outside the News Corp. headquarters in NYC

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

A 49-year-old New York City man has been arrested for allegedly setting a huge Christmas tree outside the Fox News building in midtown Manhattan ablaze early Wednesday, causing a wild scene and endangering passersby, police said.

Craig Tamanaha was taken into custody at the West 48th Street and Sixth Avenue scene just after midnight and charged hours later with a bevy of crimes, including arson, reckless endangerment, criminal mischief and trespassing, the NYPD said.

Police officials said the fire caused an estimated $500,000 in property damage in addition to unnecessarily frightening anyone who happened to walk by as the stunning scene developed.

No injuries were reported, but Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott blasted the incident as a "malicious arson attack" in a company-wide email sent Wednesday.

It wasn't immediately clear how the fire was set, though authorities say Tamanaha allegedly had a lighter at the time he was taken into custody. It's not immediately clear if that was what sparked the flames, but authorities are checking all angles.

Videos posted by witnesses to social media showed thick clouds of black smoke coming from the tree after the fire was lit.

It's also not clear why Tamanaha allegedly set the blaze in the first place, but police say the fire didn't appear to be premeditated or politically motivated. They believe he acted alone.

Information on a possible attorney who could comment for Tamanaha wasn't immediately available.

In her company-wide memo, Scott said it was fortunate there were no injuries and that all employees working at the time of the blaze stayed safe. She thanked the FDNY and NYPD for their roles in extinguishing the fire and apprehending the suspect and vowed that Wednesday's action would not deter future celebrations.

"The 50-foot tree, which was just lit in a beautiful on-air ceremony on Sunday night, was engulfed in flames and smoke permeated the building," Scott wrote. "This has become a new wonderful tradition on Fox Square over the last three years. We will not let this deliberate and brazen act of cowardice deter us."

Scott said Fox News is working to install a new tree "as a message that there can be peace, light and joy even during a dark moment like this" and will hold a lighting ceremony for that new tree at a later date.

The News Corp. building on Avenue of the Americas just dedicated the Christmas tree on Sunday. It's filled with 10,000 glass ornaments, 100,000 lights and it took over 21 hours to put together. Crews were later seen taking down what was left of the tree.

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