"Anger builds, it doesn't subside," said architect Frank Robinson. "People who get burned out of their homes are under a lot of stress. They've lost everything in a moment. They feel victimized by fate. They can act erratic and vindictive and try to blame anyone they might feel who is in any way responsible."
Robinson was trying to explain why his top carpenter was in hiding this week, and why the district attorney agreed to keep Scott Sheldon's name a secret, until it leaked out.
"I was deeply distressed his name was broadcast," said Sheldon's attorney, Marc McGinnis. "But now that it's out, it's out."
A green and yellow kite, hour'glass shaped, with which Sheldon had hoped to set an altitude record one day, accidentally touched off the worst blaze in the city's history last week. Three thousand people were homeless after [WORD ILLEGIBLE] houses, many in the 200,000 range, burned in the fire the kite started when it hit power lines, causing a spark.
From discussions with parents, friends, employers and his attorney, the portrait emerges of a quiet, sensitive young man who loves to fly kites and gliders and who is now brooding mighting over his unwitting role in the tragic blaze.
The kid is just blown away," said McGinnis Sheldon, who was setting the frame of a house for Robinson lask week, is now in [WORD ILLEGIBLE] at his parents' home in Oregon, trying to work out his conflict. "It's the best thing," Robinson said, "I lost my home in a fire so I've seen how people can act. Some people will do anything to find a scapegoat."
The U.S. Forest Service plans to file a civil [WORD ILLEGIBLE] against Sheldon, 23, for a amount equal to the estimated $300,000 cost of fighting the fire. "We have to file a suit, regardless of the circumstances, even if it was an accident," a Forest Service spokesman said.
It was beyond his wildest nightmare that a sudden gust of wind would yank the 150-pound test line holding the kite from his hands, touch it to a power line and turn the view below into barren gray ash and chimney spires, Sheldon told fire investigators. "He feels worse than horrible after watching all his friends' and neighbors' homes burn up," said his mother.
Seconds after the kite jerked from his hands, Sheldon saw the smoke, grabbed a shovel, raced down the road and tried to put out the blaze, according to witnesses. But it was spreading fast, heading toward the home of Dr. Stanley Hill, 53, an optometrist and close friend who shared Sheldon's love of kites and gliders.
By the time Sheldon yelled to his girl friend to call the fire department, others had seen the smoke and already [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Sheldon spent the night saving [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] and the nearby homes of other friends.
Sheldon had been asleep one hour when arson investigation knocked [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] Wednesday. Witnesses [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] for them TEXT ILLEGIBLE) 1500000020: