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Public Safety

Trial Ordered For Man Accused Of Re-Igniting Oceanside ‘River’ Fire

An ex-con accused of throwing brush on a smoldering fire in the San Luis Rey riverbed during a series of wind-fueled fires in San Diego County last month, causing the blaze to start up again, was ordered Monday to stand trial on a charge of arson during a state of emergency.

Alberto Serrato, 57, faces 13 years in prison if convicted, Deputy District Attorney Cal Logan said.

Oceanside police Lt. Val Sadaat alleged Serrato was spotted using something to fan the flames of the fire in the bed of the San Luis Rey River. Serrato tried to run, but didn't get far and was arrested about 3:15 p.m. on May 14, the lieutenant said.

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The blaze — dubbed the River fire — erupted east of College Boulevard in the early afternoon and was contained about 7:45 p.m.

Authorities said one structure was damaged in the 105-acre blaze, one of more than a half-dozen fires that were burning in San Diego County at the time amid a Red Flag alert posted due to heat, winds and low humidities.

Vista Judge William Gentry Jr. ruled that enough evidence was presented at Serrato's preliminary hearing to warrant a trial, set for July 22. A readiness conference is scheduled for July 10.

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