Sacramento, CA: A former criminal justice professor has admitted to deliberately starting fires behind firefighters who were combatting the Dixie Fire, which erupted in 2021 and went on to become the second-largest fire ever recorded in California.
A 49-year-old man from San Jose, California, has pleaded guilty in federal court to three counts of arson on federal government property, as reported by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento. Maynard confessed to intentionally starting fires near the firefighters who were combatting the Dixie Fire, effectively trapping them, as stated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
A devastating fire ravaged through five counties in the North State, including Shasta, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. The fire consumed a staggering 963,309 acres, claimed the lives of one person, and tragically destroyed 1,311 structures, as reported by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
According to Cal Fire, the Dixie Fire originated from power lines of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company coming into contact with a pine tree in the vicinity, resulting in the ignition of the fire.
Agents from the U.S. Forest Service initiated an investigation into Maynard on July 20 following the report of the Cascade Fire on the western slopes of Mount Shasta.
According to court records, an investigator discovered Maynard beneath his black Kia Soul, which was stuck in a ditch with its front wheels and undercarriage centered on a boulder.
Another fire broke out the following day on Mount Shasta, and investigators discovered tire tracks that resembled those left by the Kia.
Maynard’s car was eventually fitted with a tracking device by investigators following a brief police stop on Aug. 3. Following his path over long distances, investigators have reported that Maynard journeyed to the location where the Ranch and Conard Fires broke out in the Lassen National Forest, coinciding with the ongoing Dixie Fire.
The sentencing for Maynard has been scheduled for May 9, presided over by U.S. District Judge Daniel Calabretta. Maynard could potentially face a maximum of 20 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000 for each of the fires he admitted to setting, according to officials. Nevertheless, the ultimate decision regarding Maynard’s prison sentence and fines will rest with a judge.
As part of his plea, Maynard has also agreed to pay up to $500,000 in restitution to the federal government.