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At least in theory, California still has a death penalty. In order for it to be applied, a defendant would have to be convicted of killing someone.

But seriously, folks: What should we do with an arsonist who is caught setting fires when a million people have been evacuated, at least five people have died from the fire or the strain of the fire escape, and a billion dollars has gone up in smoke?

I have worked California wildfires since before Jimmy Carter was president. I have spent lots of time talking to veteran fire investigators and the fire service managers. I have heard countless tales of catching firebugs in the act, and I've heard about the sexual deviancy that is usually behind these unbelievable arsons.

Why do we give these people meds and a room in a state mental hospital when San Quentin has space in that dark little corner of the world called death row? I've been there, too.

I fail to see why my next visit shouldn't include the sight of an arsonist from this fire waiting his 20 years for California-required appeals to be rejected before he gets the needle just like any other heartless killer.

Of course, it's possible if a death from a fire like this one can be directly related to a fire that can be directly related to a particular act of arson. It doesn't always work like that.

The guy they arrested for arson in Southern California was spotted setting one fire. Why do we think he didn't set several of the others in the same area?

Fifteen-hundred people lose homes, five people lose their lives, a million Californians are refugees, a stack of cash a billion high is torched, and we're going to be nice to this arsonist and make sure he gets the mental health care he needs? Puhlease.

I don't want to sound heartless, but shouldn't this guy — if convicted — go to the head of the line at San Quentin instead of that cushy padded room at the psych ward? Are all those people in California who are against the death penalty still against it tonight?

That's My Word.

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