A felon accused of starting multiple fires with a blowtorch in an area west of Blythe pleaded not guilty Wednesday to more than a half-dozen felony charges and had his bail doubled to $100,000.
Daniel Vaca Alvarez of Mesa Verde, 29, who was arrested last Friday and is being held at the Blythe jail, 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 — along with a misdemeanor resisting count of resisting arrest.
Alvarez was arraigned at the Banning Justice Center before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Alfonso Fernandez, who scheduled a felony settlement conference for May 11 at the Blythe Courthouse.
In unsuccessfully arguing that his client’s bail be kept at $50,000, bail, Deputy Public Defender Charles Roby said the collection of fires his client is accused of setting appeared to be ignited in a fashion more consistent with a bonfire, or a controlled burn, and not an act of arson.
Roby, citing the police report, said the burned material included a trailer, piles of vegetation and a collection of debris set ablaze in a remote area.
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.
Deputies 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.
Alvarez has felony convictions, including spousal abuse and possession of a controlled substance, court records show.
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