A man decorating a tree outside an apartment complex was electrocuted when a string of Christmas lights touched a high-voltage power line, authorities said.

The 23-year-old man, who had climbed about 60 feet up a redwood tree in East Palo Alto, was trying to throw the string of lights onto hard-to-reach branches when he was killed instantly Saturday, according to Menlo Park Fire Protection District Chief Harold Schapelhouman.

Shortly after a neighbor reported the incident around 12:20 p.m., fire crews arrived on the scene and found the man's body attached the tree with smoke rising from his feet, officials said.

The body hung for more than an hour as hundreds of neighbors watched. Firefighters had to wait for utility crews to shut down power lines that supply electricity to thousands of nearby homes and businesses.

Firefighters brought the man's body down from the tree after the power was turned off, Schapelhouman said.

The victim, whose name was not being released until his family was notified, worked for Page Mill Properties, which owns apartment buildings in the area, Schapelhouman said.

"Our heart goes out to this young man and his family," Schapelhouman said. "He was trying to improve things a little bit for Christmas and he made a small miscalculation and it cost him his life."