Arsonist sentenced to 5+ years in prison

A former criminal justice professor who set at least seven fires during a record-breaking 2021 fire season — including one fire near the Dixie Fire —  was sentenced last week to five years and three months in prison. Gary Stephen Maynard, 49, pleaded guilty to three counts of arson on federal land back in February, and in his sentencing memo prosecutors wrote that his actions were “wanton and deliberate” and he’d set fires intended to harm people.

Arsonist professor Gary Maynard
Arsonist professor Gary Maynard

The Dixie Fire burned through five counties over 963,300 acres, destroying 1,311 structures and killing one person, according to Cal Fire.

Also, Marcus Pacheco, an assistant fire engine operator for the Lassen National Forest, died of Covid while working the fire, as did two water tender operators, Jose T. Calderon and Cessar Saenz, both of San Diego County.

In a report by the Redding Record Searchlight, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert said, “It is only because of the quick response by the U.S. Forest Service — and the actions of civilian witnesses — that those fires were extinguished as quickly as they were.” He said Maynard’s sentence underscores the danger that his fires created. “It serves as a reminder that federal law enforcement takes seriously the threats to life, property, and our national forests caused by arson.”

Dixie Fire at Greenville, California -- photo ©2021 Jay Walter.
Dixie Fire at Greenville, California — photo ©2021 Jay Walter.

Judge Daniel J. Calabretta of U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California sentenced Maynard to 63 months in prison. After his term he’ll  be on supervised release for three years; prosecutors said he was also ordered to pay $13,000 in restitution.

“He intentionally made a dangerous situation more perilous by setting some of his fires behind the men and women fighting the Dixie Fire,” said U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert, “potentially cutting off any chance of escape.”

The Record Searchlight has a dandy photo gallery by Ace Photographer Mike Chapman of the 2021 Dixie Fire online.

Arsonist professor Gary Maynard