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Former college lecturer accused of arson near massive Dixie Fire in California

California Wildfires
Posted at 12:46 PM, Aug 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-11 14:48:02-04

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A college lecturer is facing arson charges after allegedly setting a fire near the massive Dixie Fire that’s burning in Northern California, according to multiple reports.

CNN and KOVR report that 47-year-old Gary Stephen Maynard was arrested Saturday following an investigation that began on July 20.

A federal criminal complaint obtained by local media accuses Maynard of purposely setting the Ranch Fire in Lassen County, near the Mendocino National Forest.

During the investigation into Maynard, law enforcement reportedly placed a tracking device on the suspect’s vehicle after a witness claimed they saw him come from the area where the fire sparked.

Investigators believe Maynard started more than two fires while they were tracking him, reportedly explaining in the criminal complaint, “It appeared that Maynard was in the midst of an arson-setting spree.”

It appears Maynard worked at multiple colleges in California. On the Sonoma State University website, the school refers to the man as a lecturer for the fall 2020 semester. He also worked at Santa Clara University from Sept. 2019 to Dec. 2020, the school confirmed to The Sacramento Bee and CNN. He reportedly specialized in criminology and criminal justice.

When Maynard was apprehended by officers over the weekend, he reportedly denied starting the fires. He's being held in the Sacramento County Jail.

KOVR reports that authorities are looking into the possibility of Maynard being connected to other fires that sparked in the area.

With more than 500,000 acres burned, the Dixie Fire is the second-largest wildfire in California history, and it continues to grow. As of Wednesday, the fire located in Butte, Lassen, Plumas, and Tehama counties was only 30% contained, according to CalFire.