Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

An arsonist's long road to justice in deadly California wildfire [Live video chat]

August 17, 2012 |  1:32 pm

There was finally resolution this week to one of California's deadliest wildfires.

A San Bernardino man was convicted of murder and arson for his role in sparking the 2003 Old fire, which led to the deaths of five people, destroyed 1,000 homes and blackened a huge swath of the San Bernardino Mountains.

Times Inland Empire Bureau Chief Phil Willon will discuss the case at 2 p.m. Friday on a Google+ Hangout.

Rickie Lee Fowler, described by prosecutors as a career criminal, was found to have deliberately set the blaze, which grew to 91,000 acres, by tossing a lighted road flare into the parched brush at the base of the mountains.

The Old fire broke out Oct. 25, 2003, at Old Waterman Canyon Road and California 18, and raced through the forest and brush, forcing the evacuation of more than 30 communities and 80,000 people. Six men died of heart attacks, although prosecutors said one could not be directly linked to the stress of the fire.

A few months later, on Christmas Day, a huge mudslide caused by intense rain on the denuded slopes of the burn area swept through a church camp in Waterman Canyon, killing 14 people. Fowler was not charged in that incident.


WHO THEY WERE: Victims of the 'Old Fire'

Man guilty of murder and arson in 2003 Old fire

Murder case in San Bernardino County's Old fire heads to jury