updated 12/15/2010 1:34:02 PM ET 2010-12-15T18:34:02

Talk about a Grinch: Police say someone trying to steal copper wire burned down the city of Birmingham's 35-foot-tall Christmas tree.

Officers say someone stripped electrical wires off the Norwegian Spruce at Linn Park about 4 a.m. Wednesday, then started a fire. Police believe thieves were attempting to separate the copper wire from the plastic insulation on Christmas decorations.

But the fire spread to the tree, engulfing it in flames. Public works crews later used heavy machinery to remove the blackened limbs and trunk.

Parks director Melvin Miller says thieves have taken ornaments from the city tree in the past, but nothing like this has happened before. Miller says the tree won't be replaced.

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