Gary Maynard, a 49-year-old former criminal justice professor, has pleaded guilty to federal arson charges after igniting multiple fires in Northern California. His actions, which occurred during the catastrophic Dixie Fire of 2021, endangered firefighters and added to the havoc of one of the state’s most devastating wildfires.
Maynard, who had taught at Santa Clara University and Sonoma State University, admitted to setting fires in the Shasta Trinity National Forest and near the Lassen National Forest, where the Dixie Fire was raging. Notably, he placed some of these fires behind the lines of firefighters battling the blaze, effectively trapping them as they fought to contain the massive wildfire.
The incident has shocked the community, especially given Maynard’s academic background. Investigations into his motives have suggested he might have been experiencing a mental health crisis at the time, with witnesses describing his behavior as erratic.
His arrest followed a meticulous investigation by federal authorities, who used a tracking device on his car to link him to the crime scenes. Now, Maynard faces a severe penalty for his actions, with sentencing set for May 9. He could receive up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count of arson on federal property.