A group of petty grinches in Birmingham, Ala., torched the city's official Christmas tree while trying to steal the copper out of its lights, police said.

The thieves were stripping the lights off the 35-foot Norwegian Spruce at around 4 a.m and using gasoline to separate the copper wire from the plastic insulation when a fire started, The Birmingham News reported.

The thieves took off, but the tree was burned to the ground. Work crews removed the tree's charred carcass this morning.

Melvin Miller, Birmingham's parks and recreation director, told The Birmingham News that the city's tree had never been destroyed before.

"It's not good," Miller told the paper. "It kind of dampens the seasons, but we still know what this season is all about. It's not about a tree. We've had ornaments taken from the tree but nothing like this."

The tree cost the city $7,500.

Initially, city officials said it would not be be replaced, but a local radio station donated a new tree, The News reported.

The new tree was schedule to be set up at 3 p.m. Wednesday afternoon.