A Temecula man pleaded not guilty Friday to charges he intentionally started nine fires, including the still-burning Cranston Fire that has scorched more than 12,000 acres in the Idyllwild area.
Brandon McGlover, 32, was charged with 15 felony counts in connection with the nine separate fires, which were started Wednesday in the Idyllwild, Anza and Sage areas, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office stated in a news release.
McGlover was arrested without incident that same day the fire started, shortly after he was detained by members of the Hemet/San Jacinto Gang Task Force who located him in the area.
The largest of the fires McGlover allegedly started was still burning Friday in the Idyllwild area. The Cranston Fire had scorched 12,300 acres, destroyed at least five homes, and was about 16 percent contained as of Friday evening.
McGlover has been charged with one count of aggravated arson, five counts of arson of an inhabited structure, and nine counts of arson of forest or wildland.
He entered a not guilty plea Friday afternoon at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta. He was ordered to return for a felony settlement conference on Sept. 24.
The judge set his bail at $3.5 million.
An attorney for McGlover spoke outside the courthouse, offering "thoughts and prayers" for the firefighters and families affected on behalf of the defendant and his family.
"If these fires were intentionally started, our hope is that the person responsible is found so that this does not happen again," attorney Joseph Camarata said.
McGlover is facing a potential life sentence if convicted, according to the DA’s office.
The criminal complaint against McGlover could be amended to include additional allegations, including charges related to two firefighters who have been injured, DA's office spokesman John Hall said.
Hall indicated he's not aware of McGlover having any criminal background, but he said the investigation was ongoing.
Authorities are still searching for witnesses in the case and have set up an anonymous hotline at 800-633-2836 for anyone who witnessed suspicious activity related to the series in southwest Riverside County. Tips can also be submitted to Capt. Greg Ewing at 951-940-8505.
Correction: An earlier version of the headline for this story misstated the number of fires that McGlover is suspected of setting. It is nine including the Cranston Fire, not nine plus the Cranston Fire. The story has been updated.