SANTA CLARA, Calif. (KRON) – A Bay Area college professor has been arrested after being accused of setting several fires near national forest land.
47-year-old Gary Maynard is being held in the Sacramento County Jail.
Investigators say Maynard is now accused of starting several fires near the massive Dixie Fire.
A woman tells KRON4 they were roommates in San Jose and that he is a brilliant but troubled man. She says she does not see how he was capable of being a serial arsonist.
Maynard has taught crime and sociology at several California colleges.
We know that Maynard has been charged in connection with one fire that burned in Lassen County.
Authorities say he may have set many over the last several weeks and was a danger to the public. They say he was living out of his car and set at least seven fires near Lassen and Shasta-Trinity National Forests.
The accusations against Maynard are staggering to his friend and former roommate.
“He’s a kind person but he deals with mental illness and I just, I didn’t think he was capable of doing something like this so I’m in shock,” Kathryn Charpentier said.
Kathryn Charpentier says Maynard has struggled with keeping jobs at several Bay Area schools, including Santa Clara University and Sonoma State.
Maynard has a Ph.D. in Sociology and three master’s degrees.
Charpentier says Maynard was homeless, had difficulty finding work, and had gone to the Lassen area to live.
“I gave him a couple cars to live in so he’s been living in the cars that I gave him,” Charpentier said.
Court documents show Maynard was arrested after a U.S. Forest Service officer placed a tracking device under his car.
Maynard has been linked to several fires that burned between July 6 and August 7.
The most recent three were not far from where the Dixie Fire is currently burning.
The federal judge overseeing the case has acknowledged mental health issues may be involved.
“I hope he gets the help he needs. He’s ill. He’s very ill,” Charpentier said.
A criminal complaint shows Maynard has been charged with willfully setting the Ranch Fire in Lassen County.
He’s right now facing up to 5-years in prison and a $250,000 fine.