A college professor was charged Tuesday with what the Sacramento Bee calls an "arson spree" in Northern California, near the massive Dixie Fire. Gary Stephen Maynard, 47, who has worked at multiple colleges in the state, was arrested Saturday. "Over the course of the last several weeks, Maynard has set a series of fires in the vicinity of the Lassen National Forest and Shasta Trinity National Forest," an assistant US attorney wrote in a detention memo, going on to note that Maynard allegedly set at least one fire near the still-not-contained Dixie Fire, which engulfed the entire town of Greenville last week.
So far, Maynard is charged with setting Lassen County's Ranch Fire, and could face up to five years behind bars and a $250,000 fine if convicted. Prosecutors say mental health issues may be involved. Authorities began investigating Maynard on July 20, after a US Forest Service investigator found him underneath a car near the Cascade Fire, which broke out that day. He at first refused to get out from under the vehicle or identify himself, then acted erratically once he did come out, authorities say. Witnesses told police Maynard had been "mumbling a lot and having bipolar-like behavior," including brandishing a knife. Authorities used tire tracks left at the scenes of multiple fires, among other evidence, to determine arson was involved, KCRA reports. (Read more California stories.)