The charred doors of the church in National City. Courtesy OnScene.TV

A San Diego man who allegedly set fire to a South Bay church early Thursday was taken into custody about six hours later and jailed on suspicion of arson.

Images captured by surveillance cameras in front of Iglesia Ni Cristo, in the 2200 block of East Eighth Street in National City, led to the arrest of 37-year-old Ace Tomas Rancudo, a former parishioner there, according to police.

The blaze erupted about 3:15 a.m., engulfing a pair of large wooden front doors on the house of worship between Euclid Avenue and Interstate 805, National City Police Capt. Alejandro Hernandez said.

Alerted by a burglar alarm set off by the flames, patrol officers hurried to the church and largely extinguished the blaze with a fire extinguisher. Firefighters soon arrived and completed the job, Hernandez said.

The flames destroyed the doors but did not spread into the unoccupied building, said National City Fire Department Battalion Chief Robert Hernandez, who estimated the damages at roughly $5,000.

After reviewing the security camera images and interviewing officials at the church, detectives identified Rancudo as the suspected arsonist.

Later in the morning, investigators looking for Rancudo found his pickup parked in the 400 block of Sunnyside Avenue in the Lomita neighborhood of eastern San Diego and put it under surveillance.

After Rancudo got into the pickup and drove off, shortly before 9:30 a.m., detectives pulled him over and took him into custody without incident, the police captain said.

The damage to the church was minor enough that the leaders of the congregation planned to conduct regularly scheduled services there Thursday evening, the fire department battalion chief said.

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