Former Professor Accused of Setting Multiple Fires in California

Former Professor Accused of Setting Multiple Fires in California

( – According to an October 2020 report from the United States Fire Administration (USFA) — a division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) — “from 1990 to 2019, there have been 502 firefighters killed during activities involving brush, grass or wildland firefighting…” In other words, on average, 17 of them answered their “final call” each year. Now a professor is suspected of trying to add to the horrific numbers.

Professor Firebug

Gary Stephen Maynard had been a lecturer at Santa Clara University and Sonoma State University specializing in criminal justice studies, including cults and deviant behavior, according to the Sacramento Bee. Court documents indicate he is a suspect in setting several fires, but he has only been charged for the “Ranch Fire” set on August 7, 2021.

Per an affidavit filed by United States Forest Service (USFS), Special Agent Tyler Bolen, after several interactions between Maynard and law enforcement, received a warrant that allowed him to place a “vehicle tracking device” on “the subject vehicle.” While investigating an area where Maynard had parked his car, he saw somewhere between 1/2 to 1 acre on fire, which became designated the Ranch Fire.

Officials allege that the professor set a string of fires with the intent to trap firefighters working to contain the Dixie Fire — the second-largest blaze in California history. If they found themselves pinned between two walls of flame, they could easily add to the grim statistics at the beginning of the story.

An update from Cal Fire issued at 7:00 a.m. August 12 stated the Dixie Fire covered over 500,000 acres, was only 30% contained, and had destroyed more than 1,100 structures. At a bail hearing for Maynard, a federal prosecutor requested that he be held without bail because of the threat he poses to public safety. The judge concurred, and he is being held at the Sacramento County Main Jail.

An interactive fire map shows dozens of active blazes across California and, quite frankly, a depressing number throughout the Pacific Northwest. This graphic shows why the alleged actions of somebody like Maynard are so dangerous: Any of his arson spots could easily have become a major conflagration — killing people and causing untold misery.

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