California woman facing arson charges in devastating Fawn Fire

PALO ALTO, Calif. — A 30-year-old woman has been arrested on suspicion of sparking the Fawn Fire in northern California that has scorched nearly 9,000 acres across Shasta County since Wednesday.

>> Fawn Fire 2021: Photos capture devastation as California blaze engulfs nearly 9,000 acres

Alexandra Souverneva, 30, of Palo Alto was arrested Wednesday after the fire ignited in the Mountain Gate area near Redding, engulfing nearly 6,000 acres with only 10% containment by Friday morning, the Los Angeles Times reported.

>> Read more trending news

By Sunday afternoon, the Fawn Fire had almost consumed another 3,000 acres, but firefighters had increased containment to 35%, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett confirmed during a Friday news conference that Souverneva has been charged with one count of felony arson and an enhanced charge of committing arson during a state of emergency. Combined, the charges could result in as many as nine years in prison, the Times reported.

According to Cal Fire officials, employees at a remote quarry near the fire’s origin reported a woman, later identified as Souverneva, trespassing and “acting irrationally” in the area early Wednesday. Several hours later, after firefighters were already battling the blaze, Souverneva “walked out of the brush near the fire line” and approached firefighters, telling them that she was dehydrated and in need of medical treatment, the newspaper reported.

Meanwhile, Bridgett confirmed during the news conference that a lighter was found in Souverneva’s pocket when she was questioned by authorities, The Washington Post reported.

“However, the fire is obviously still burning and the investigation is still underway, and based on the final damages and outcome of that investigation, additional charges are likely,” Bridgett said, noting that Souverneva may be linked to additional fires in the county and state.

According to the Times, Souverneva told Cal Fire officer Matt Alexander that she was trying to get to Canada, and he confirmed that investigators also found carbon dioxide cartridges in her possession alongside the lighter.

Nearly 2.4 million acres have burned across California in 2021, the newspaper reported.

Meanwhile, Cal Fire Battalion Chief J.T. Zulliger confirmed during the news conference that the department’s Shasta-Trinity unit, alone, has made 14 arson arrests, while 103 arson arrests have been made statewide this year.