A part-time college lecturer who worked at several California colleges has been arrested for allegedly committing arson in remote forested areas of Northern California near the Dixie Fire. The cause of the Dixie Fire has not yet been determined.
The suspect, Gary Stephen Maynard, 47, is being held in the Sacramento County Main Jail until his preliminary hearing, which is scheduled August 24.
He was charged with willfully setting the Ranch Fire in Lassen County on Saturday and could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.
Maynard reportedly worked at Santa Clara University and Sonoma State University, where he was listed as a lecturer in criminal justice studies specializing in criminal justice, cults and deviant behavior.
Santa Clara University confirmed that “Gary Maynard was an adjunct faculty member in the sociology department at Santa Clara University from September 2019 to December 2020.”
Sonoma State University said he was no longer with the university and took down his profile page from its website.
“He was a part-time lecturer in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice,” a university spokesperson told The Sacramento Bee. “He was employed with Sonoma State University in Fall 2020, but did not have an appointment for Spring 2021.
“Mr. Maynard was contracted to fill in for a faculty member who was on leave. He taught two seminars in Criminology and Criminal Justice Studies in Fall 2020.”
Maynard was arrested Saturday after an investigation that began July 20. According to court records, Maynard was first brought to the attention of authorities after mountain bikers called to report a fire in the woods.
A U.S. Forest Service agent began an investigation and placed a tracking device on Maynard’s car after he had been stopped by Susanville police Aug. 3.
When Maynard appeared Tuesday in federal court in Sacramento, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Anderson asked that he not be released from custody.
“There are simply no conditions that could be fashioned that could ensure the safety of the public with respect to this defendant,” Anderson told the judge.
Anderson also wrote in a detention memo, “Over the course of the last several weeks, Maynard has set a series of fires in the vicinity of the Lassen National Forest and Shasta Trinity National Forest. The area in which Maynard chose to set his fires is near the ongoing Dixie fire, a fire which is still not contained despite the deployment and efforts of over 5,000 personnel.
“Depending on wind direction, smoke from this fire has engulfed the federal courthouse here in Sacramento and has been experienced several states away.”
On Wednesday, Anderson asked the court “to detain the defendant as both a danger and a flight risk. He’s a danger to the community as well as the firefighters fighting these fires.”
U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis M. Cota agreed at a hearing on Wednesday, saying that Maynard would remain in custody until an Aug. 24 preliminary hearing.
The Dixie Fire is California’s second-largest fire, which has burned more than 501,008 acres and is only 30% contained as of Wednesday morning, Cal Fire reports.
This article was originally posted on Part-time professor charged with arson in series of California fires