CA College Lecturer Held After String of Arsons Near Dixie Fire

Firefighters working hard to protect homes in Greenville when extreme weather conditions resulted in aggressive fire behavior.
Firefighters working hard to protect homes in Greenville when extreme weather conditions resulted in aggressive fire behavior. InciWeb photo.

Sam Stanton

The Sacramento Bee

(TNS)

Aug. 11—The California professor suspected in a string of arsons near the 500,000-acre Dixie Fire was ordered Wednesday to remain in jail as a flight risk and danger to the community.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis M. Cota said during a Zoom hearing in federal court in Sacramento that Gary Stephen Maynard, 47, must remain in custody at the Sacramento County Main Jail at least until an Aug. 24 preliminary hearing due to the nature of the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Anderson urged Cota to keep Maynard jailed because of the potential threat he poses.

“We’d ask the court to detain the defendant as both a danger and a flight risk,” Anderson said. “He’s a danger to the community as well as the firefighters fighting these fires.”

Maynard was arrested Saturday after a string of fires that federal investigators were tracking throughout Northern California in recent weeks.

Nearly 900 Buildings Destroyed by Massive CA Fire

Maynard is charged with starting one fire — the Ranch Fire in the Lassen National Forest that started Saturday — but is suspected in a string of arsons in Northern California near the massive Dixie Fire.

Court papers describe Maynard as a college lecturer who worked at Santa Clara University, Sonoma State University and other institutions.

A Santa Clara spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday that he worked there as an adjunct faculty member from September 2019 to December 2020.

Sonoma State University also confirmed he worked there as a part-time lecturer in the fall of 2020. His webpage at that university was taken down after The Sacramento Bee called for comment, but an archived version shows he described his areas of expertise as including criminal justice, cults and deviant behavior.

Court papers say Maynard first came to the attention of authorities on July 20 when mountain bikers called to report a fire in the woods.

Will Keller told The Bee he was biking in the area with his friend Doug Ferguson when they came upon the fire and put it out themselves, building a containment line around it using sticks.

“By the time the forest service got there, it was just smoke and embers,” Keller wrote in an email.

That blaze, called the Cascade Fire, burned an area of about 300 square feet, Keller wrote.

A U.S. Forest Service investigator who came to the scene found Maynard 150 to 200 yards away from the fire digging under his Kia Soul, which had become stuck atop a boulder with its front wheels in a rut, court papers say.

As the investigation into Maynard continued, investigators relied on cell phone data, store camera video and a vehicle tracking device placed on his car to track his movements throughout Northern California and near where other arson fires erupted, court papers say.

Maynard denied to investigators that he had anything to do with the fires, court papers say.

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