Watch Now

Ex-university instructor charged with setting 4 California fires

Alleged arsons happened near massive Dixie wildfire this summer

(Photo: Lassen County Sheriff's Office, NOAA)

Earlier this month, a federal grand jury in Sacramento, California, indicted a former university instructor on charges related to an arson spree near the massive Dixie fire this summer.

Related: Tanker pilot dies in crash while fighting Colorado wildfire

The indictment charges Gary Stephen Maynard, 47, of San Jose, California, with setting four small fires over the course of two weeks in July and August. According to prosecutors, two of the blazes could have trapped firefighters battling the Dixie fire. He now faces four counts of arson to federal property and one count of setting timber on fire.

Court documents did not state a motive for the fires. Maynard, who was arrested in August, denied to investigators that he set the blazes, according to documents.

If convicted, Maynard could spend up to 20 years in prison and be fined as much as $250,000, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California. Maynard was previously a lecturer at Santa Clara University as well as Sonoma State University, where he taught classes on criminal justice, cults and deviant behavior. At the time of the fires, he was living in his car, according to court documents.

The Dixie fire became the second largest on record in California history, burning more than 963,000 acres. The fire started on July 13 and didn’t reach 100% containment until Oct. 25, according to fire officials. The cause is still under investigation.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.

You might also like:

Aging ‘Voice of the National Weather Service’ may soon sound better

Rollover alleys: 5 Interstate stretches that pose greatest risk

Truckers who died helping accident victims named Highway Angels

Nick Austin

Nick is a meteorologist with 20 years of forecasting and broadcasting experience. He was nominated for a Midsouth Emmy for his coverage during a 2008 western Tennessee tornado outbreak. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from the Georgia Tech. Nick is a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in February 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” eight consecutive years.