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Man Convicted of Setting 2003 "Old Fire" Gets Death Sentence

Crews from Loma Linda and Redlands responded to the Old Fire in 2003 and sent hundreds of residents fleeing from their mountain homes into the communities below.

A man convicted of setting the Old Fire -- one of the most devastating wildfires in California history, which contributed to the deaths of several area residents -- was sentenced to receive the death penalty today, according to San Bernardino County District Attorney officials.

Rickie Lee Fowler 31, was found guilty on Aug. 15, 2012, of five counts of first-degree murder and two counts of arson in connection with the fire. He faced a San Bernardino County Superior court judge to hear his fate Monday, DA Officials said.

Supervising Deputy District Attorney Robert Bulloch prosecuted the case.

The fire, sparked in 2003, burned more than 90,000 acres, damaged 1,003 homes and led to the deaths of residents Charles Howard Cunningham, 93, James William McDermith, 70, Chad Leo Williams, 70, Robert Norman Taylor, 54 and Ralph Eugene McWilliams, 67.

The blaze reportedly started over a drug related argument. Authorities say Fowler threw flares into the tall dry brush near Old Waterman Canyon Road, igniting them. The brush went up in an instant and quickly moved toward homes.

Fire crews from Loma Linda and Redlands joined thousands of firefighters from around the region in the massive firefight that followed. Crews had already been battling the Grand Prix Fire, also in the San Bernardino National Forest. above Claremont, Upland and Rancho Cucamonga.

The fires would eventually burn into each other becoming one massive blaze.

Fowler’s conviction comes nearly 10 years after the fire swept through the mountain communities forcing everyone into the “flatlands” including into San Bernardino, Loma Linda and Redlands.

“Today, after nearly ten years, justice has now been secured for the victims and their families, and those whose lives were affected by the actions of Rickie Lee Fowler,” District Attorney Michael Ramos said in a written statement.

t January 28, 2013 at 10:03 PM
Was this known as esperanza fire? Or different?
Bud Jones January 28, 2013 at 10:12 PM
Now, all that needs to be done is carry out the sentence. My vote goes to within 30 days--NOT 30 years!!
Marolyn Davis January 28, 2013 at 10:32 PM
This isn't the Esperanza fire. This fire came up to Big Bear and also jumped the RR tracks on the Cajon. It was so awful.
Gregory Brittain January 28, 2013 at 10:39 PM
In CA, thanks to letting the Libs gum up the system, it will probably be death by old age.
Bud Jones January 28, 2013 at 10:49 PM
@Gregory. Unfortunately, my friend, you are absolutely correct!
beaumontdave January 28, 2013 at 10:50 PM
He got three life terms for raping his cellmate while awaiting trial for the fire, I don't have any problem saying good riddance to this pos.
Sheri Davis January 28, 2013 at 11:12 PM
The Esperanza Fire burned by Idyllwild, and 5 firefighters lost their lives in that one. A guy from Beaumont last name of Oyler was - according to records n such - the one who started the Esperanza Fire.
Gregory Brittain January 29, 2013 at 05:03 AM
But it does not have to be this way. We do not have to accept the status quo or the parameters given by the Dems/MSM/Left and establishment Reps. We can provide a fair trial and a fair appeal and then execute the "pos" in 3-5 years.
Washy January 29, 2013 at 10:35 PM
You are right Gregory but it is the same in most states that have the DP Even Texas with the "express lane" DP the average length of stay on death row is 8yrs. But it also does disgust me to know people in prison eat better and more nutritionally balanced means then those in our school districts.

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