The 50-foot tree in Manhattan went up in flames just before 12:15 a.m. Wednesday.
Heavy flames then spread to smaller decorated trees in the display.
A 49-year-old man spotted by building security climbing the tree was quickly taken into custody.
Building security pointed the man out to police officers posted in Rockefeller Center nearby.
He reportedly had a lighter in his possession.
The suspect was identified as 49-year-old Craig Tamanaha, who is homeless, with a last known address in Brooklyn.
He is charged with criminal mischief, reckless endangerment, arson, criminal nuisance, endangering others, criminal trespass, criminal tampering and disorderly conduct.
Tamanaha, who is expected to appear in court later Wednesday, has three prior arrests: two for drug possession and one for public intoxication.
The motive for the arson was unclear, but police said Tamanaha appears to have acted alone
The holiday display, including the “All-American Christmas” tree, is set up in what News Corporation calls Fox Square outside its headquarters, which houses Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post.
The tree is prominently featured on the Fox News Channel, which hosted a tree lighting ceremony Sunday night.
The company said the 50-foot high tree has 10,000 glass ornaments, 100,000 lights and took more than 21 hours to assemble.
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