Sgt. Dan Cohen said Amos Andrews, 57, of Santa Maria, was arrested Saturday night after an investigation pointed to his involvement in the blaze, which was reported around 2:30 a.m. Saturday at the residential hotel at 215 N. Broadway. Several residents were injured in the fire.
Andrews is facing charges of arson and attempted murder in the case, Cohen said.
"To protect the integrity of the investigation, the nature of that evidence will not be released at this time," Cohen said Sunday.
Authorities began searching for Andrews on Saturday and an off-duty police employee spotted him about 7:40 p.m. inside a restaurant in the 300 block of North Broadway. Officers were called to the scene and Andrews was arrested without incident, Cohen said.
Andrews was booked into County Jail on arson and attempted murder charges, he said.
No firefighters were injured.
First-responders were credited with making dramatic rescues as the three-story hotel burned early Saturday.
"Police officers ... reported fire on the first floor and spreading to the second floor," Orr said Saturday. "Officers were assisting people with evacuation until smoke conditions inside forced the officers out."
A ladder truck was positioned on the north side of the structure, closest to Mill Street, allowing people to escape from the second-floor roof, he said.
"Occupants were hanging out of their windows on the south side of the hotel due to heavy smoke conditions," Orr noted.
Firefighters used 35-foot ladders on the south side of the building and rescued four people from third-floor windows, he said.
In addition to Santa Maria fire and police personnel, Orr credited the work of other fire crews who were battling the blaze, among them firefighters from the Santa Barbara County and San Luis County fire departments, the Lompoc Fire Department and the Five Cities Fire Authority.
A preliminary damage estimate was $1 million for the structure and $400,000 for contents.