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A Hayward investigator combs through what is left of a carport full of cars that went up in flames in the early morning hours on Friday, Aug. 2, 2013 at an apartment complex off Montgomery Street in Hayward, Calif. A total of eight cars were parked in the carport, six were totaled and two were damaged. Neighbors were suspicious of one of the tenants who was first on the scene and got his truck out. (Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group)

HAYWARD -- A 39-year-old Hayward man suspected of setting his apartment's carport ablaze was arrested on arson charges Friday after authorities discovered he lit a cigarette while siphoning gas from neighbors' cars, a fire official said.

The suspect, who jail records identified as Vade Arrun Bradley, was wandering around the carport area of the Valienzi Manor Apartments at 22270 Montgomery Street about 3:20 a.m., draining gas from residents' vehicles, Hayward fire spokesman LaShon Earnest said. The man, who had recently received an eviction notice from the apartment complex, was reportedly sparking a flame to light a cigarette when it made contact with the vapors in the air and ignited a fire that engulfed the parking structure in a matter of minutes.

While Bradley was able to pull his vehicle out of the carport before it caught fire, several neighbors were not so lucky, Earnest said. An estimated $200,000 worth of vehicle damage was reported in the blaze, with six vehicles being a total loss.

According to Earnest, Bradley was treated for a black eye after a neighbor saw what happened and punched him in the face. The fire did not spread to the nearby apartments during the ten minutes it burned, and nobody else was injured in the fire.

Resident Andrea Solis, who has lived at the complex for five years, was the only other resident able to rescue her car from the carport, and used her sweater to put out the flames consuming her passenger side mirror. As she pulled her car out of the parking space, the roof of her month-old vehicle blistered from the flames.


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"It was like something you see out of a movie," Solis said of the fire, which reportedly shot 20 to 30 feet in the air. "You never think it's going to happen to you."

While fire investigators ruled the blaze an accidental consequence of the man's gas siphoning, jail records indicate that Bradley was arrested on arson charges Friday afternoon. He was booked into Hayward Jail, where he remains on $75,000 bail. He will appear in court at the Hayward Hall of Justice on Monday at 2 p.m.

Photographer Laura Oda contributed to this report. Contact Erin Ivie at eivie@bayareanewsgroup.com