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California mall ablaze after man sets fire, barricades self in store

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Arson suspect's mom: 'We are in shock'
  • Firefighters are hampered in battling a fire set at a northern California mall
  • Police say a man claimed he had a gun when he entered a video game store
  • The man set a fire, then barricaded himself in the store before his arrest, police said

Read more about the story from CNN affiliate KCRA.

(CNN) -- Firefighters were making progress at a California shopping mall where a man started a fire and barricaded himself inside a video game store, authorities said Thursday evening.

The man was later arrested.

The man entered the Westfield Galleria at Roseville "speaking incoherently" in the late morning, police said. He claimed he had a handgun and then set the fire, which has lasted for hours.

Police and fire crews converged on the scene, and several police officers led a suspect out in handcuffs shortly after 1 p.m. Authorities said they believe he may have been involved in an arson the night before, Sacramento fire officials told CNN affiliate KXTV.

Video: Suspect detained in mall fire incident
  • Roseville
  • Police

Roseville police identified the suspect as Alexander C. Pigee, 23. He was being checked at a hospital before being sent to jail, officials told CNN.

The mall, about 18 miles northwest of Sacramento, was evacuated during the incident, and it remained closed after the suspect was taken away. Law enforcement officers were checking for a backpack that authorities feared might contain an explosive device.

Officers were getting close to determining the bag's contents when the nearby fire got too big, forcing them to abandon their operation, CNN affiliate KMAX reported.

For that reason firefighters, too, were not being allowed in the building and smoke continued to rise.

Instead, firefighters were "on the defensive," Dennis Mathisen of the Roseville Fire Department told CNN, approaching the blaze with ladders and more from outside the mall.

The mall's sprinkler system seemed to have been keeping the fire at bay until it erupted again.