Authorities in California have arrested a college professor and charged him with an act of arson that is directly linked to the state’s ongoing Dixie Fire, according to Fox News.
The professor, Gary Maynard, taught classes at both Santa Clara University and Sonoma State University, although his page on Sonoma State’s website is no longer active. The 47-year-old Maynard was arrested on Saturday after an investigation that first began in July. He currently faces charges of arson and unauthorized entry into an enclosed area.
Court documents related to the investigation show that Maynard is implicated in at least seven different fires in Northern California from July 6th to August 7th. Three of those fires were all started in the vicinity of the Dixie Fire, including the Ranch Fire.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Anderson revealed in a memo that “the area in which Maynard chose to set his fires is near the ongoing Dixie Fire, a fire which is still not contained despite the deployment efforts of over 5,000 personnel.” Anderson is arguing in favor of Maynard being held in custody indefinitely while he awaits trial.
Anderson also revealed that Maynard’s actions were determined after “agents had installed a tracker in his vehicle” and followed his movements, as well as tracking his cell phone. “Where Maynard went, fires started. Not just once, but over and over again.”
When contacted by the press, both universities confirmed that Maynard was no longer employed at either one. A spokeswoman for Sonoma State said that “he was a part-time lecturer in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice…in Fall 2020, but did not have an appointment for Spring 2021.” Santa Clara University released a statement confirming that he was merely “an adjunct faculty member in the sociology department at Santa Clara University from September 2019 to December 2020.”
If convicted, Maynard could face a sentence of up to five years in prison, and a fine of $250,000. The Dixie Fire, which began on July 13th and is burning across four counties in the state, has broken the record for the largest fire in California’s history.