Former top Cal Fire official charged with felony conspiracy and intent to sell illegal steroids in Nevada

A Cal Fire engine stages in the middle of the road in 2020.
A Cal Fire engine during the Creek fire in 2020 in Shaver Lake. A former Cal Fire division chief has been charged with possession and sale of steroids.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

A former Cal Fire division chief has been charged in Nevada with four felonies, including possession of anabolic steroids for sale and conspiracy related to the possession and sale of a controlled substance.

Mark A. Lawson was charged Dec. 9 with possessing such significant quantities of steroids in 2020 and 2021 that Nevada’s attorney general alleged it amounted to a possession-for-sale case rather than personal usage, according to court records. Earlier this month, Lawson resigned from his new job as Sparks, Nev., fire chief — a position he held less than a week — when authorities there learned of his pending criminal prosecution, according to a city statement.

Lawson, 56, who is set to be arraigned Jan. 31, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

He served 32 years with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, rising to become division chief in Merced County before taking the job in Sparks. Cal Fire pay records show he last worked for the agency in 2019.

Lawson was charged with conspiracy to violate the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, two counts of possession of a controlled substance and possession with intent to sell a controlled substance, court records show

According to court records, Lawson was found with 34.6 grams of an anabolic steroid on Aug. 26, 2021. The steroid is considered a Schedule III controlled substance. In addition, court records say Lawson possessed .089 gram of modafinil, a central nervous stimulant that is used as an alternative to amphetamine, and is a Schedule IV controlled substance.


According to court records, the former top Cal Fire leader was caught on Oct. 9, 2020, in possession of the illegal drugs with intent to sell.

Lance Forrester, who was identified in court records as a co-defendant with Lawson, was charged with three felonies, including being involved in a conspiracy with Lawson on Oct. 9, 2020, and possessing steroids on July 28 and possessing steroids with intent to sell on March, 16, 2021. Forrester served as a Nevada correctional officer until 2020, according to Transparent Nevada, a watchdog website documenting salaries for state employees.