Woman Accused of Arson in Starting California Wildfire


A woman from Palo Alto, California, has been charged with arson in connection with a wildfire in Shasta County that burned nearly 9,850 acres and damaged more than 25 buildings and exacerbated the toll of an already brutal fire season in the state. .

Alexandra Souverneva, 30, who was arrested on Thursday, could face up to nine years in state prison if found guilty. Shasta County prosecutors said. The Fawn Fire was about 10 percent contained as of Friday night, prompting forced evacuations in parts of the county.

Officials said Ms. Souverneva may have started other fires in Northern California’s Shasta County. Authorities declined to specify what other fires it may have been linked to, but county district attorney Stephanie A. Bridgett said in an interview Friday that there is more than one in her county, and at least one more in a separate county.

wildfires in california burned almost two million acres So far this year, according to Cal Fire, the state’s fire department.

Employees of a local business in the Mountain Gate area near Redding, 160 miles north of Sacramento, told Cal Fire officials that Ms. Souverneva had been seen trespassing and “behaving strangely” when the fire started on Wednesday. News Conference Friday night. He did not elaborate.

Cal Fire battalion chief JT Zulliger said Ms. Souverneva had been asked to leave and that workers had seen her flee towards the hills above their location that afternoon. He said that the fire started at 16:45 local time at that time.

Ms Bridgett said Cal Fire officials later saw Ms. Souverneva emerge from the bush with a lighter in her pocket. Ms. Bridgett, Ms. Souverneva told firefighters at the scene that she was dehydrated and needed medical treatment.

“It was right there, very close to where the fire started,” Bridgett said. Ms Bridgett said Ms Souverneva came out of a wooded area where “no one else was present”.

Chief Zulliger said he was arrested after being medically treated and released.

A message left on a phone number listed for Ms. Souverneva on Friday went unanswered. It was not immediately clear whether he had a lawyer.

School spokesperson Kathy A. Svitil said Ms. Souverneva graduated from the California Institute of Technology with a chemistry and biology major and graduated in 2012. According to that LinkedIn profile, Ms. Souverneva was a part-time teacher in 2020 and before that, a medicinal chemistry researcher at Gilead Sciences.

Officials said Fawn Fire spread rapidly due to dry winds. “People are having to flee the area very quickly,” said Ms Bridgett. “There are still many community members who have been evicted.”

Images broadcast by the TV channel KRCR He showed the smoky sky, the fires that burned the structures to ashes, and the wooden houses collapsing in a bright orange and red flame.

According to Chief Zulliger, there have been fourteen arson arrests in Shasta County this year, with 103 arrests across the state. He did not share a possible motive in Ms Souverneva’s case, but said arsonists often acted with coercion.


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