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UPDATE: Suspect Arrested for Starting Destructive Antioch Fire with Fireworks

ANTIOCH (CBS SF) -- Fire officials in Contra Costa County on Tuesday confirmed the arrest of a suspect in connection with a Memorial Day fire in Antioch sparked by fireworks that destroyed eight apartment units and displaced 40 people.

Contra Costa County Fire Protection District (Con Fire) identified 44-year-old Antioch resident James Sossaman as the suspect arrested Monday. He faces charges of unlawfully causing a fire to inhabited structures and being a felon in possession of a firearm, authorities said.

Antioch fireworks suspect James Sossaman
Antioch fireworks suspect James Sossaman (Con Fire)

Con Fire officials said the blaze broke out around 5:30 p.m. in the area of 18th and Hargrove in Antioch and spread to two apartment buildings with eight units.

While responding, Engine 81 reported seeing a large column of black smoke from a half mile away. Upon arrival, the grass fire had already extended from the grass into a two-story apartment complex and a second-alarm response was ordered.

With temperatures at the time of the incident in the upper 90s with wind gusts between 15-20 mph, the fire was quickly fed into the neighboring apartments. Responding crews, including East Contra Costa Fire's Battalion 5, were able to stop grassfire spread across the gully and protect the apartments on the west side of the incident.

Officials said additional companies worked to extinguish the structure fires and search 10 separate apartments that were either on fire or in immediate danger of catching fire.

A coordinated fire attack resulted in the fire being extinguished at shortly before 6:30 p.m. Crews were on scene for approximately three hours to overhaul and salvage as much as possible.

Through witness interviews and surveillance videos, fire investigators located arson suspect Sossaman and determined he caused the fire by allegedly throwing an M-100 pyrotechnic device into the field behind the apartment complex.

During the investigation, Sossaman was also determined to be on felony probation. During a search of his apartment, a loaded firearm was located along with additional illegal fireworks.

Sossaman was transported by Antioch Police to Martinez Detention Facility for booking.

Con Fire officials said the fire displaced 40 residents. Two civilians were transported to hospital for smoke inhalation and no firefighters were injured. The American Red Cross assisted with housing for those displaced, fire officials said.

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