Investigators determine vegetation fire that destroyed eight apartments, displaced 40 residents caused by fireworks.
By Steve Hill, Public Information Officer, Con Fire
Contra Costa County Fire Protection District (Con Fire) today, June 1, 2021, announced its fire investigators made a fireworks-related arrest yesterday in relation to a fireworks-caused fire behind apartments in the 1700-block of Hargrove Street in Antioch that destroyed eight units and displaced 40 residents.
James Sossaman, 44, an Antioch resident, was arrested for Unlawfully Causing a Fire to Inhabited Structures (PC § 452(b)) and Felon in Possession of a Firearm (PC § 29800) and transported by Antioch Police to Martinez Detention Facility for booking.
Con Fire responded to multiple reports of a vegetation fire behind apartments in the 1700 block of Hargrove in Antioch, May 31 just after 5:30 p.m. While responding, Engine 81 reported 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. An aggressive fire attack followed in an attempt to slow the spread of fire.
Through witness interviews and surveillance videos, investigators located the person responsible for the grass fire and determined it was caused by Sossaman throwing an M-100 pyrotechnic device into the field behind the apartment complex. Through the investigation, Sossaman was also found to be on felony probation. During a search of his apartment, a loaded firearm was located along with several other illegal fireworks.
Weather conditions at the time — temperatures in the upper 90s with wind gusts between 15-20 mph – quickly fed the fire into the neighboring apartments. 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.
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. Strong winds blew the fire across a breezeway to adjoining apartments. A coordinated fire attack resulted in the fire being extinguished at approximately 6:26 p.m. Crews were on scene for approximately three hours to overhaul and salvage as much as possible.
The fire displaced 40 residents and the American Red Cross assisted with housing for those displaced.
No firefighters were injured. Two civilians were transported to hospital for smoke inhalation.
Con Fire’s Fire Investigation Unit urges residents to help them fight the crime of arson across the county by calling the Arson Tip Line at 1-866-50-ARSON. They caution residents not to hesitate on information that seems too little or unimportant to matter, adding some of the most valuable tips come from residents who were not aware what they saw was very important to the investigation of an incident.
At 1-866-50-ARSON, residents can leave a recorded message about fire-related criminal activity in English or Spanish. Tips can be anonymous, but all tips are treated confidentially. Fire investigators sometimes need additional information, so inclusion of name and phone number is encouraged.