Man charged with 9 Calif. arson fires since 2011

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — A man was charged Wednesday with setting nine arson fires since 2011 that burned a total of 670 acres in two counties east of Los Angeles, including one last week that damaged two homes.

Steven Taylor Rutherford, 47, of Banning faces 13 felony counts of arson with enhancements for using a delayed ignition device and having a prior arson conviction. He was being held on $5 million bail after a deputy public defender entered a not guilty plea on his behalf during a brief court hearing.

Rutherford was arrested on June 28 after a wildfire near Mentone that burned 534 acres and damaged four properties, including two homes, prosecutors said.

The other eight fires were in neighboring Riverside County and did less damage. All but the San Bernardino fire were extinguished after charring fewer than 55 acres, Hall said.

Arson investigators with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection had tracked Rutherford since 2011 using surveillance video from businesses and GPS tracking devices placed on his vehicles, Hall said.

He declined to be more specific citing the ongoing investigation.

Rutherford is charged with setting fires dating back to Sept. 6, 2011.

He was previously convicted and sentenced to a year in county jail for a 1989 arson fire, The Press-Enterprise in Riverside reported (

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