Former College Professor Pleads Guilty to Arson Charges in Connection with Dixie Fire


Nearly three years later, the former college professor arrested for starting fires behind firefighters battling the Dixie fire pleads guilty. 

The ex-professor Gary Stephan Maynard once taught at a number of California schools, including Sonoma State University, where he lectured on criminal justice, cults, and deviant behavior.

Maynard’s arrest became possible when Susanville police officers placed a tracking device under his car during a traffic stop. This action allowed authorities to confirm his deliberate involvement in setting fires in remote areas while thousands of firefighters and resources were engaged in battling the single largest fire in California’s history.

Among the four fires Maynard was charged with setting, two occurred in Lassen County – the Ranch and Conrad fires, initiated on August 7th, 2021, near Highway 44 in the Lassen National Forest.

According to Maynard’s plea agreement, audio and video evidence retrieved from ‘digital devices’ disclosed Maynard making threats and discussing acts of arson. Web searches indicated that he monitored the Dixie fire, including area closures and fire suppression efforts.

Maynard is now facing a 20-year prison sentence and fines of $250,000 for each count to which he pleaded guilty, as per the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California. His sentencing is scheduled for May 9th.