California Residents Angry About Fires

Training binoculars at flames raging toward his Crestline (search) home, school custodian Tom Rose clenched his jaw and blinked hard.

"Whoever did this," he said, lowering the lens and shaking his head slowly, "I say bring him down here and have a public lynching."

His sentiments are shared by many of the wildfire (search) refugees gathered at the San Bernardino Airport (search) evacuation center who are not only coping with the loss of their homes, but the fact that all indications show the fire was started by an arsonist.

"When there is arson it just complicates the whole grieving process," said fire chaplain Steven Kay of nearby Redlands. "Your suffering becomes rage because someone did this to you."

For many fire survivors it will be important that they express their feelings without doing damage to themselves or anyone else, Kay said.

Cindy Montepagano, a soil conservationist who was evacuated from her home in the San Bernardino mountains two days ago, said the fire has even changed some of her beliefs about punishing criminals.

"I was totally against the death penalty and have been all my life, but I'm beginning to change my mind," she said. "It's that serious."

Authorities released a composite sketch Monday night of a man suspected of starting the blaze that has destroyed at least 450 homes and been blamed for the deaths of two people. Investigators were seeking two men in their early or mid-20s who were seen throwing flaming objects from a van along Highway 18.

Authorities said at least three blazes were suspected of arson, which together have destroyed 527 homes and more than 90,000 acres.

Donna Flores, a volunteer at the airport's emergency center, said she's trying to help by listening to evacuees venting their rage. "They have a right to be angry," she said.

About 1,600 people, including 600 children, were at the evacuation center Monday and authorities said hundreds more were expected.

Susan Peppler, a State Farm Insurance public affairs officer, shook her head sadly as she watched people line up for dinner.

"This was so senseless," she said. "Whoever did this has caused so much hurt, heartache, sadness and fear, especially among all the children."