Southern California breaking news and trends

Rickie Lee Fowler murder/arson trial begins in San Bernardino

Wildfires Arson Murder

Kevork Djansezian/AP

Oct. 30, 2003: A view from a burned out home showing a pine tree forest and homes which were consumed by the Old Fire as it roared through the community of Cedar Glen in Lake Arrowhead, Calif. A grand jury indicted Rickie Fowler on Tuesday Oct. 20, 2009, on five counts of murder for this 2003 wildfire in Southern California that destroyed about 1,000 homes and was linked to a half-dozen heart attack deaths.

Opening statements in the murder/arson trial of Rickie Lee Fowler -- the California man accused of lighting a deadly 2003 wildfire -- started Monday with the defendant appearing in shackles after initially refusing to come to court.

Prosecutors say Fowler ignited the blaze dubbed the "Old Fire" in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles.

91,000-acres burned, 1,000 homes were destroyed and five residents suffered fatal heart attacks. Fowler is charged with five counts of murder for those deaths.

Suspected early in the fire investigation, authorities were not able to press charges until six years later. If conviced, Fowler could face the the death penalty

The defendant also faces additional felony charges of forcible sodomy in a separate case. Last summer he allegedly raped a fellow inmate at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga, where he is currently serving a nine-year sentence for an unrelated burglary conviction. 


Wildfire warning: A 'red flag' blows in the dry SoCal wind

Mercer 1111

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

This Aug. 30, 2009 file photo shows a deer escaping a wildfire in the Angeles National Forest near Los Angeles.

Gusty winds and dry air have created a perfect storm for fire weather in the Los Angeles/Oxnard region prompting the National Weather Service to issue an urgent "red flag warning" on Monday. The Antelope Valley and foothills are officially on alert beginning at noon, and continuing into Tuesday evening.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection keeps a list of current major fire incidents on its website, and also posts updates via its official CAL Fire Twitter accounts.

The Los Angeles Fire Department has a preparedness guide and action plan to help protect your home, your family and yourself, in the event of a disasterous wind-driven wildfire.

Lisa Brenner can be reached via Twitter @lisa_brenner


Acton fire investigated: Structures destroyed in 125-acre blaze

acton fire

Courtesy NBC-LA

A fire in Acton, CA burned 125-acres on May 8, 2012.

With an aggressive air response, firefighters were able to fully contain a blaze in Acton on Tuesday that consumed 125 acres, including several structures and cars.

The northern Los Angeles County wildfire started burning around 4 p.m., said Supervising county fire dispatcher Robert Diaz. Low humidity and gusty winds in the region contributed to the quick speed of the fire's spread.

As of 6:30 p.m., firefighters believed they had "stopped the fire in its tracks" for now, according to L.A. County Fire Captain Mark Savage. Metrolink re-opened tracks north of Via Princess "at restricted speeds" and was making stops to Lancaster, according to its Twitter feed.

Contained by nightfall, fire officials allowed residents who were evacuated earlier in the day to return home that evening. Diaz said firefighters remained on the scene near West Crown Valley Road to monitor hot spots overnight.