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Man Charged with Setting Fatal California Fire

Authorities in Riverside County, Calif., charge a 36-year-old man with five counts of murder and arson in connection with last week's deadly Esperanza wildfire outside Palm Springs.

Raymond Lee Oyler was arrested earlier this week on charges stemming from an unrelated arson fire last June. He's now charged with the deaths of five U.S. Forest Service firefighters who were engulfed in flames while trying to protect a home last Thursday.

Riverside County Under-Sheriff Neil Lingle says there is strong evidence linking Oyler to the Esperanza fire.

"We have recommended to our district attorney that he charge Mr. Oyler with the 5 murders of United States Forest Service Firefighters," Lingle said, "along with 11 counts of arson of forest land and 10 counts of use of incendiary device in those arsons."

At his arraignment Thursday, Oyler, of Beaumont, Calif., pleaded not guilty.

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Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.