Former University Faculty Member Accused of Setting Fires Near Dixie Fire

Published: August 11, 2021

A former part-time criminal justice lecturer at Sonoma State University has been arrested on arson charges. He’s accused of setting several fires near where the Dixie Fire, California’s largest active wildfire, is burning, reports CBS Sacramento.

Gary Stephen Maynard, 47, was arrested on Saturday after investigators used vehicle tracking data, tire tracks left behind at the scenes of the fires and other patterns to confirm or rule out arson, reports KCRA. Investigators had been tracking him since last month after a witness saw Maynard come from where the Cascade Fire had started.

The witness believed Maynard was mentally unstable, and the suspect pulled a knife on him. Court records indicate he lived alone in his car.

Maynard is suspected of setting the Cascade, Bradley, Ranch and Conard Fires. The Dixie Fire started in mid-July, but Pacific Gas & Electric equipment may have been involved in the fire’s ignition.

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Sonoma State has confirmed to SFGate that in the fall of 2020, Maynard was a part-time criminal justice lecturer but doesn’t currently work for the school. The suspect was an adjunct sociology faculty member at Santa Clara University from September 2019 to December 2020, reports KCRA.

Court filings detail the severity of Maynard’s alleged crimes:

“He entered the evacuation zone and began setting fires behind the first responders fighting the Dixie fire… Maynard’s fires were placed in the perfect position to increase the risk of firefighters being trapped between fires. But for the dedication and efforts of U.S. Forest Service investigators working around the clock to track Maynard, those fires would not have been discovered in their infancy.”

Maynard has denied the arson charges.

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