Alexandra Souverneva has been charged with starting a wildfire in California. Souverneva said that the Fawn Fire was accidental and that she was only trying to boil some bear urine so that she could have something to drink. Authorities are starting an investigation into the blaze and any other fires connected to Alexandra Souverneva.
The Fawn Fire has currently destroyed 41 homes and 90 small structures in the Shasta County and as it moves toward Shasta Lake, firefighters have been able to control about 35% of the fire.
Residents of the area have been asked to leave their homes as the fire rages on. “Approximately 4,000 Shasta County residents are evacuated at this time with 30,000 residents affected,” said the Shasta Sheriff’s Office.
Souverneva pleaded not guilty to the federal arson charges in court on Friday. If convicted she could face nine years in prison. She is officially charged with “starting a fire during a state of emergency,” which comes with a harsher sentence then traditional arson. She faced an angry group of displaced Shasta County residents who are trying to wrap their heads around the idea that their destroyed homes were not an accident.
“It is difficult to grasp when disaster like this is, apparently, not a natural disaster. But we have a suspect,” said Shasta County Sheriff Michael L. Johnson.
According to Alexandra Souverneva, she was hiking to Canada when the fire started and had tried to boil a puddle of bear urine to have something to drink. The bear urine didn’t boil, and Souverneva continued hiking.
At some point, she got caught in the blaze and had to call for firefighters to rescue her. They had her empty her belongings and it was discovered that was carrying a lighter, a couple CO2 cartridges, and a green leafy plant that she admitted to smoking during her hike.
During the day of the fire, a quarry employee said that he saw a woman toss two CO2 cartridges that matched the ones found in Souverneva’s bag earlier that day. The JF Shea Quarry employee told the woman that she was trespassing and told her to leave, but she ignored his warnings. Firefighters were called to the area later that day to deal with the growing fire.
Officials believe that Alexandra Souverneva could be connected to a handful of other forest fires in the California area. If she is convicted of being a serial arsonist then these forest fires could go from being accidents to intential fires.
“It is my opinion there is a high possibility she is responsible for the vegetation fire in Shasta Lake City the previous evening,” said Cal. firefighter Matt Alexander. “It is my experience that arsonists … will light multiple fires in a short timeframe.”
The Fawn Fire is just the latest fire to destroy forests in California. In 2021, fires have burned through over 3,600 square miles of California land and have destroyed over 3,200 homes and commercial properties.
These forest fires have also destroyed California air quality. Scientists believe that the increase in wildfires this year is caused by climate change. The West has become drier in the past 30 years and that has impacted the weather conditions in the state.