updated 6/14/2009 2:32:48 PM ET 2009-06-14T18:32:48

Authorities in California have identified a suspect in a huge wildfire that destroyed almost 1,000 homes and was blamed for six deaths.

San Bernardino County Sheriff's Sgt. Frank Bell said Saturday that 27-year-old Rickie Lee Fowler is a suspect in the fire that struck the area in 2003.

Bell said Fowler could face arson and murder charges.

The blaze erupted on Oct. 25, 2003, and raged for nine days across the San Bernardino Mountains, charring more than 140 square miles and causing $42 million in damage. Officials said six people died of heart attacks as a direct result of the fire.

Fowler is serving a nine-year prison term for burglary. He was convicted of that crime the month following the fire.

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