A woman who was attempting to hike to Canada is facing charges connected with the Fawn Fire, which authorities say she started while trying to boil drinking water, according to a criminal complaint from the Shasta County District Attorney's Office in California.
Alexandra Souverneva, 30, faces a felony arson charge with an enhancement of committing arson during a state of emergency, District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett said. Souverneva could face up to nine years in state prison, though she could face more charges as the fire is still burning and the investigation is ongoing, authorities said.
The Fawn Fire began September 22 and as of Tuesday afternoon was 65% contained, according to Cal Fire. The fire has burned more than 8,500 acres and prompted Gov. Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency in Shasta County. The fire has destroyed homes and forced thousands of evacuations, according to a statement from Newsom's office.
"We are aware that there are possible additional fires here in our county that she may be linked to as well as other charges in other fires, statewide," Bridgett said at a news conference Friday. "My office will not hesitate to prosecute (any) person who either intentionally or recklessly starts a fire."
Souverneva pleaded not guilty, authorities said.
The district attorney's office says she was appointed a public defender at her court appearance on Friday. The county public defender's office said it does not comment on any pending cases.
Souverneva had been hiking to Canada on September 22 and was seen in the Mountain Gate community in Northern California, according to a narrative written by a Cal Fire officer. She was told she couldn't be on the property by quarry employees, but kept walking.
Souverneva then became thirsty and found a puddle of water in a dry creek bed, but the water allegedly had bear urine in it so she tried to filter the water with a tea bag, the officer said.
"She said that didn't work so she attempted to make a fire to boil the water. She stated it was too wet for the fire to start. She said she drank the water anyway and then continued walking uphill from the creek bed," the complaint read.
Souverneva got stuck in brush and called the fire department, the complaint read. She was evaluated for dehydration and then questioned by Cal Fire authorities when she allegedly told them she tried to light a fire. Souverneva was taken into custody, the complaint read.
Souverneva was found with with CO2 cartridges, a cigarette lighter and a "white item containing a green leafy substance," the complaint read.
Souverneva's bail is $150,000 and her next court appearance is October 5.
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