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Former college criminal justice instructor indicted in arson spree during California wildfires

Cal Fire Capts. Derek Leong, right, and Tristan Gale monitor a firing operation, where crews set a ground fire to stop a wildfire from spreading, while battling the Dixie Fire in Lassen National Forest, Calif., on Monday, July 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

(CNN) — A federal grand jury has indicted a former college instructor on charges in connection to a string of fires set over the summer in Northern California as firefighters battled the Dixie Fire — the second largest wildfire in the state’s history.

The five-count indictment alleges that Gary Stephen Maynard, 47, of San Jose, California, set four fires in the Shasta Trinity National Forest and the Lassen National Forest — the Cascade Fire on July 20, the Everitt Fire on July 21 and the Ranch Fire and Conard Fire which were both set on Aug. 7.

He’s charged with four counts of arson to federal property and one count of setting timber afire, the Department of Justice announced on Thursday in a news release.

“Dr. Maynard denies all the charges in the indictment. He will do so formally at a hearing next week,” his attorney, Hannah Labaree, told CNN in an email.

The fires were set in the vicinity of the Dixie Fire and some of the fires were set behind the firefighters working to stop that fire, according to prosecutors in the Eastern District of California.

The Dixie Fire started on July 13 and burned more than 963,000 acres in five counties before it was contained on Oct. 25, Cal Fire said.

Maynard was arrested on Aug. 7 and is being held at the Sacramento County Jail.

Maynard was a part-time lecturer at Sonoma State University in its Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice during the fall of 2020. He taught two seminars on the topics of criminal justice and deviant behavior, according to school officials. Maynard was filling in for a faculty member who was on leave and was not reappointed for Spring 2021.

Maynard was also an adjunct faculty member at Santa Clara University in its sociology department from September 2019 to December 2020.

If convicted, Maynard faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count of arson, according to the release.

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