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Dried-out Christmas tree leads to Gardena mortuary fire

January 13, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
A dried-out Christmas tree led to a fire that gutted a Gardena mortuary.

The McMillan & McCormick Mortuary is a total loss, and the damage is estimated at $2 million. There were no human remains inside the mortuary and no one was hurt.

Friday afternoon, Los Angeles County Fire Department arson investigators walked through the crime scene. Investigators said within minutes of lighting up the Christmas tree, the building was on fire.

Christmas tree fires are not unusual this time of year. Still pictures provided by the Long Beach Fire Department show damage from recent fires ignited by a Christmas tree.

Long Beach arson investigator Pat Willis said his department has had to investigate 60 deliberately set Christmas tree fires this holiday season.

"It seems as if in this time period right after Christmas, there's almost like a green light on for setting Christmas trees on fire," he said. "The reality of it is anybody that does set something on fire on purpose can be charged with arson, they can be arrested and sent to jail."

There's no connection between Thursday night's mortuary fire and to any of the Long Beach fires, according to investigators.

One long time Gardena resident said it's a shame someone deliberately started the fire that destroyed the building.

"You know I really feel sorry because in this day and age anything can happen, and kids don't seem to care - if it is a child - they just seem to think it's fun, and it's not. You destroyed something very personal for the family of Gardena," said resident Sheila Mortensen.

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