Calif. Gov. Declares Emergency in Mall Blaze

ROSEVILLE, Calif. --

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a state of emergency in Placer County after a raging arson fire tore through a Sacramento suburban mall on Thursday.

About a quarter of the Westfield Galleria mall in Roseville was destroyed by major fire and water damage.

Authorities said Alexander Piggee, 23, was taken into custody in connection with the standoff and blaze.

Meanwhile, the mother of Piggee said she was in "shock."

Piggee said on his Facebook page that he lives in the Sacramento area and has battled mental illness. He said he is originally from Stockton.

At about 1 p.m., Piggee was loaded into a police car and taken to the Roseville jail.

Piggee was seen being taken away from the jail and into an ambulance at about 5 p.m. Police said he was taken to Sutter Roseville Medical Center with an undiagnosed medical condition. By 7 p.m., Piggee was transported to the Placer County Jail, police said.

Smoke billowed skyward and flames shot from the roof of the mall Thursday afternoon as an earlier fire flared up again. At about 6:45 p.m., more flames were seen flickering from the roof of the building.

Just before 9 p.m., Roseville officials tweeted that the fire was contained and that crews would be monitoring hot spots throughout the night.

The mall includes about 240 stores, including Nordstrom, Macy's, JCPenney and Sears.

Piggee was taken into custody in connection with a standoff and blaze that occurred at the mall hours previously.

Piggee is facing charges of aggravated arson and criminal threats, police said.

He's also a person of interest in two separate arson fires in Sacramento County, Roseville Police Lt. Mike Doane said.

Piggee is suspected of playing a role in a fire at a Walmart in Sacramento County earlier in the day, said Capt. Christian Pebbles of Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District.

On Facebook, Piggee describes himself as being bipolar and talks about living in shelters.

His mother told KCRA 3, KSBW's sister-station in Sacramento, that Piggee had moved out of her home recently, and she was on good terms with him.

Employees at an In-N-Out Burger restaurant in West Sacramento said Piggee used to work there. Piggee said on his Facebook page that he was fired in August.

A wing of the mall between JCPenney and Macy's suffered significant damage, Roseville Fire Division Chief Dennis Mathisen said.

Authorities said the original standoff occurred at the GameStop store at the mall, which was evacuated at about 10:30 a.m. Police and firefighters from several agencies responded.

Piggee was trying to hide when he was found by police, Doane said.

The suspect was taken into custody and was brought outside of the mall by police. He was questioned as he sat on a bench.

The earlier blaze appeared to die down by early afternoon. But shortly before 2 p.m., a large plume of smoke rose from the mall. Flames could be seen shooting from the roof, which partially collapsed.

Police said Piggee appeared to leave a backpack inside the mall. Police said it was not clear what is inside of the backpack.

Mathisen said the backpack is now buried under debris.

Water could be seen trickling out of the door of the mall.

Authorities said Piggee claimed to have a firearm at one point. Investigators said the motive behind the standoff was not clear.

A mall worker said he heard a fire alarm. He said everyone was told to leave the mall.

The Roseville Police Department said mall employees who need to get their cars from the mall's parking lots can meet police officers next to the Sears automotive shop. They will be shuttled in to get their vehicles, spokeswoman Dee Dee Gunther said.

Roseville Mayor Gina Garbolino called the devastating blaze a "blow to the community."

"People have jobs here, and now their jobs are being affected temporarily," Garbolino said.

She said the city's post-fire focus will be on recovery and rebuilding efforts.

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