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Christmas tree fire burns Santa home in Vegas mall

  • Article by: MICHELLE RINDELS
  • Associated Press
  • December 26, 2013 - 5:50 PM

LAS VEGAS — One of Santa Claus' Las Vegas homes was burned after a giant Christmas tree caught fire at an open-air mall early Wednesday, just as children around the globe were expecting St. Nick to deliver presents.

Neither Santa nor anyone else was injured when the 45-foot-tall artificial tree at Town Square went up in flames about 2 a.m. on Christmas morning, about eight hours after the mall closed. Little more than a metal skeleton remained of the tree, although a scorched, 600-square-foot cottage where Santa poses for pictures with children appeared to be the only building affected, according to mall officials.

"Obviously you never want to experience something like this," said Town Square marketing director Jaimesen Mapes. "We're just very grateful nobody was harmed during the fire."

Clark County Deputy Fire Chief Jon Klassen said crews found flames reaching 100 feet in the air when they arrived at the upscale shopping center. The spectacle was visible enough that a visitor at a resort a mile south of the mall could see it and called 911, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

"Something that tall and that shape, it's going to be a big gigantic matchstick," Klassen said.

Firefighters were quickly able to extinguish the flames, Mapes said. While Klassen acknowledged the Christmas morning timing was ironic, he said the fire appeared to be sparked by faulty wiring. A final cause is still pending.

"It was such a total, catastrophic event, there wasn't much left for them to investigate," Klassen said. "Santa's little house took a lot of heat."

It was unclear whether the lights on the tree were turned on at the time of the blaze. The financial impact of the fire is also unclear.

The cottage, which is inspired by Norman Rockwell paintings, houses Santa and a photography crew and was accepting visitors through Christmas Eve. The display — which is located in a central park and features the Christmas tree as a centerpiece — was scheduled to be up through New Year's.

The setup has been cordoned off, Mapes said. It's unknown whether the house is a total loss.

"The timing is never good for an event like this," Mapes said. "But we have a strong community here in Vegas, and we're confident that the traditions we have at Town Square will continue."

© 2014 Star Tribune