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College Professor Gary Stephen Maynard Charged With Intentionally Starting California Wildfires

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) - A college professor accused of starting fires near the Dixie Fire earlier this year has been formally charged with starting four wildfires.

A federal grand jury has returned a five-count indictment against Gary Stephen Maynard, 47, of San Jose, according to Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert. He's being charged with arson to federal property and setting timber afire,

The fires happened in the area of the Dixie Fire in Shasta Trinity National Forest and Lassen National Forest while the Dixie Fire was burning. Some of the fires were behind firefighters battling the Dixie Fire, the indictment alleges.

Maynard's alleged arson spree started the Cascade Fire (July 20, 2021), the Everitt Fire (July 21, 2021), the Ranch Fire (Aug. 7, 2021), and the Conard Fire (Aug. 7, 2021).

U.S. Forest Agents started investigating Maynard on July 20, the same day as the Cascade Fire. Investigators eventually placed a tracking device on his car after a witness at the fire claimed they saw Maynard come from the area where the fire sparked. At the time, he was "mumbling a lot and having bipolar-like behavior," the witness said.

During the investigation into the Cascade Fire, authorities allegedly found evidence of the additional fires.

"The two small ground fires were each determined to be acts of arson and, indeed, classified as two additional arson fires," wrote one investigator.

Tracking equipment showed Maynard in the area where the Ranch Fire was ignited. Tire tracks also matched his car.

Just prior to his arrest, Maynard had been living out of his car and traveling alone across a large section of Northern California. Investigators claim at one point, Maynard worked at Santa Clara University. Sonoma State confirms he also taught at their university during the Fall of 2020 as a part-time lecturer in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

If convicted, Maynard faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count of arson. Arson to federal property carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison.

Maynard is currently being held in custody.

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