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Former professor sentenced for starting fires behind crews battling California's second largest wildfire

Former professor sentenced for starting fires near Dixie Fire
Former professor sentenced for starting fires near Dixie Fire 00:27

SACRAMENTO – A former professor was sentenced to more than five years in prison for starting three fires behind firefighters working one of California's largest wildfires in state history. 

Gary Maynard, 49, was sentenced to five years and three months in prison, three years of supervised release and ordered to pay just over $13,000 in restitution for three counts of arson on federal property during the Dixie Fire, prosecutors said on Thursday. 

"Maynard went on an arson spree on federal land while California faced one of the worst fire seasons in history. He intentionally made a dangerous situation more perilous by setting some of his fires behind the men and women fighting the Dixie fire, potentially cutting off any chance of escape," said U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert.

The Dixie Fire burned more than 960,000 acres over three months across Butte, Plumas, Lassen, Shasta and Tehama counties. The only fire to burn more acres was the 2020 August Complex Fire, which scorched more than a million acres across seven Northern California counties.

Maynard, a former criminal justice professor at Sonoma State University, admitted to setting the Cascade Fire on July 20, 2021, the Everitt Fire on July 21, 2021, the Ranch Fire on Aug. 7, 2021, and the Conard Fire on Aug. 7, 2021, prosecutors said. 

The maximum sentence for each count was 20 years in state prison and a $250,000 fine, while the minimum sentence for arson on federal property is five years in prison. 

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