updated 8/15/2012 2:49:56 PM ET 2012-08-15T18:49:56

A jury has found a California man guilty of murdering five people who had fatal heart attacks after he deliberately started a blaze that ballooned into a massive wildfire.

Jurors in San Bernardino on Wednesday found 30-year-old Rickie Fowler guilty of setting a fire in the foothills above San Bernardino in 2003 that burned nine days and torched 1,000 buildings.

Prosecutors charged Fowler with the murders of five men who died from heart attacks after their homes burned to the ground or as they rushed to evacuate.

Fowler became a suspect when witnesses reported seeing a passenger in a van tossing burning objects into dry brush. Investigators interviewed Fowler several months later but didn't have enough evidence to file charges until six years after the fire.

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