BANNING (CBSLA) – A 29-year-old Mesa Verde man, Daniel Vaca Alvarez, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to more than a half-dozen felony charges after being accused of starting several fires with a blowtorch in an area west of Blythe.
Alvarez, who was arrested on April 30, is charged with two counts of arson of a non-dwelling, five counts of arson of property and one count of possession of an incendiary device – all felonies – as well as a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest.
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Deputies responded to a call about a brush fire at about 9:15 a.m. Friday off a dirt road near Mesa Drive and Blythe Way in the unincorporated
community of Mesa Verde, according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. They arrived to find several brush and structure fires, and
allegedly spotted Alvarez fleeing the area with a propane blowtorch in hand, according to Sgt. Bryan Berryman. Alvarez was taken into custody after a brief foot pursuit, he said.
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After Deputy Public Defender Charles Roby argued Friday that the fires his client was accused of setting were more consistent with a controlled burn like a bonfire and not an act of arson, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Alfonso Fernandez raised Alvarez’s bail from $50,000 to $100,000.
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