11/06/06 — A tragic loss: Stiff penalties should be price for dangerous arson

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A tragic loss: Stiff penalties should be price for dangerous arson

The man who is accused of setting the blaze that ended in the deaths of five firefighters in California — if he is guilty — probably never intended that anyone would die as a result of his action.

He — or the person who eventually is convicted in the case — never thought that there might be consequences beyond the thrill of seeing a blaze begin and spread.

The tragic part of the story of the California wildfires is that because of someone’s carelessness, five families lost loved ones.

The firefighters died Oct. 26 when the wind-driven blaze overtook them as they tried to save a house in the rural community of Twin Pines, about 100 miles east of Los Angeles.

This weekend, community members and their families turned out to say goodbye.

And that is the reason those who are convicted of arson crimes should face stiff and unyielding penalties.

You don’t know what is going to happen in a fire. Firefighters risk their lives every day, not knowing what is around the corner. A shift in the wind, a weakened structure — either of these could claim a life.

Firefighters are charged with protecting their communities from fire danger — and they do so no matter how the blaze starts or the risk to themselves.

The man who started the California blaze took five lives with his carelessness. And he should be treated as if he pulled a trigger.

Published in Editorials on November 6, 2006 10:59 AM