The 50-foot tree in Manhattan caught fire just before 12:15 a.m. Wednesday.
The heavy fire then spread to the smaller ornamental trees in the gallery.
A 49-year-old man was discovered by building security climbing a tree and was quickly detained.
Building security pointed the man out to police officers posted at the nearby Rockefeller Center.
He is said to have owned a lighter.
The suspect has been identified as Craig Tamanaha, 49, a homeless person with a last address in Brooklyn.
He was charged with mischief, reckless endangerment, arson, nuisance crime, endangering others, trespassing, criminal tampering, and disorderly conduct.
Tamanaha, who is scheduled to appear in court late Wednesday, has had three previous arrests: two drug possession cases and one public intoxication.
The motive for the arson is unclear, but police say Tamanaha appeared to have acted alone
Holiday displays, including the “American Christmas” tree, were set up in what News Corporation called Fox Square outside its headquarters, home to Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post.
The tree was featured prominently on Fox News, where a tree-lighting ceremony is held on a Sunday night.
The company says the 50-foot tall tree has 10,000 glass ornaments, 100,000 lights, and took more than 21 hours to assemble.
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