A Temecula man accused of igniting nine fires in southwestern and central Riverside County — including the 13,000-acre Cranston Fire south of Idyllwild — must stand trial on 15 felony counts, a judge ruled Friday.
Brandon N. McGlover, 32, was arrested in late July within a couple of hours of allegedly setting the Cranston blaze in the San Bernardino National Forest.
McGlover is charged with nine counts of arson to forestland, five counts of arson to an inhabited structure and one count of aggravated arson.
Following a preliminary hearing that spanned three non-consecutive days at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta, Superior Court Judge John Davis found there was sufficient evidence to warrant a trial on all charges and scheduled a post-preliminary hearing arraignment for Nov. 30.
McGlover is being held in lieu of $3.5 million bail at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside.
According to investigators, the defendant allegedly was seen leaving the area where the Cranston Fire erupted along state Route 74, between Mountain Center and Hemet, just east of the U.S. Forest Service’s Cranston Fire Station.
Witnesses provided a description of the suspicious man and his vehicle to the California Highway Patrol, culminating in his arrest about 3 p.m. on July 25 in the area of Old Newport Road and State Street. The wildland blaze was only a few hundred acres at the time, but over the ensuing two weeks, the brusher would blacken 13,140 acres in the San Jacinto Mountains.
A dozen homes and other structures were destroyed, and the communities of Idyllwild, Lake Hemet, Mountain Center and Pine Cove were evacuated at the height of the blaze, which more than 1,000 firefighters battled 24 hours a day until Aug. 10.
The burn scar left behind by the fire has resulted in elevated risks of flooding, mudslides and rock slides.
Prior to the Cranston wildfire, Cal Fire peace officers had been searching for a man believed responsible for starting “a series of wildland fires … (that) occurred in several areas within southwest Riverside County and federal areas along Highway 74,” according to an agency statement.
McGlover was ultimately connected with each of the alleged acts of arson.
He has no documented prior felony convictions in Riverside County. If convicted, he could face life in prison.