College Lecturer Arrested for Arson Near Massive California Wildfires

Gary Stephen Maynard, 47, who recently taught criminology at California’s Sonoma State University, was arrested on August 7 on suspicion of arson at several locations in Northern California. He’s been charged with purposely starting the Ranch Fire, in Lassen county, east of the gigantic Dixie Fire, raging northwest of Lake Tahoe. Tracking information from his vehicle also placed Maynard at the ignition scene of the Conard Fire, near the Ranch Fire.

Maynard isn’t suspected of any involvement in the Dixie Fire, though some reports have suggested one of the smaller fires he ignited may have been an effort to trap firefighters working the Dixie Fire. Maynard was a temporary part-time faculty member in 2020 at Sonoma State, though he’s been living in his vehicle recently. Police were once called by a neighbor, concerned that Maynard had been seen brandishing a large knife.

Maynard first came under suspicion after his car was discovered stuck in a rut on a dirt road on the slopes of Mt Shasta. Mountain bikers spotted a fire nearby and alerted authorities. Police discovered Maynard trying to free his vehicle, but acting suspiciously. The following day, a fire not far from where his car was stuck was discovered and extinguished, and it’s thought that fire was arson.

Maynard is jailed while he awaits next steps.

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