Photo via Costa Mesa Fire Department PIO.
Photo via Costa Mesa Fire Department PIO.

A fire that destroyed a 96-foot Christmas tree outside South Coast Plaza shopping mall was determined to be an accident Wednesday — the same day mall officials planned to unveil the transformation of the tree’s remains into a holiday light display.

The preliminary cause of the Monday morning fire was an “unspecified electrical malfunction associated with the lighting system for the tree,” according to Costa Mesa city officials.

The burned-out remains of the 96-foot white fir has been 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.

About 8,000 multi-colored LED lights from the tip of the trunk form the shape of a tree, according to South Coast Plaza officials. There is a 36-inch illuminated crystal star on top.

“A Christmas tree in Town Center Park has been a beloved part of South Coast Plaza’s annual holiday season for 34 years,” said South Coast Plaza spokeswoman Debra Gunn Downing. “We intend to keep this family and community tradition for years to come.”

A valet parker and maintenance worker called 911 at 6:34 a.m. Monday to report the blaze, and firefighters were on scene at 686 Anton Blvd. two minutes later, Costa Mesa fire Capt. Chris Coates said.

“Witnesses state there was a loud pop about two-thirds of the way up the Christmas tree, which was on fire,” Coates said. “You could see the smoke column from miles away.”

— Wire reports 

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