Woman Charged with Arson After Allegedly Starting California Wildfire Trying to Boil Water

As of Monday, the Fawn Fire has burned over 8,500 acres and is 60 percent contained after thousands of residents were evacuated

alexandra Souverneva
Photo: Douglas County Sheriff's Jail

The woman who allegedly ignited the ongoing Fawn Fire in California could be connected to other recent wildfires, investigators believe.

Gov. Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency for another area, Shasta County, on Monday due to the Fawn Fire, which, as of Monday, had burned 8,559 acres, according to a press release from the governor's office. This fire began on Wednesday, Sept. 22, and has caused thousands to be forced to evacuate affected areas.

According to CNN, 30-year-old Alexandra Souverneva is facing a felony arson charge with an enhancement of committing arson during a state of emergency. Since the fire is continuing to develop, the charges could change to reflect the damages.

"We are aware that there are possible additional fires here in our county that [Souverneva] may be linked to as well as other charges in other fires, statewide. My office will not hesitate to prosecute [any] person who either intentionally or recklessly starts a fire," said District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett at a press conference Friday, per CNN.

fawn fire
AP Photo/Ethan Swope

Souverneva pleaded not guilty and is next due in court on Oct. 5, with a preliminary hearing set for the following day. On Tuesday, her attorney told PEOPLE that her client is innocent in the ongoing investigation and "no evidence has been presented to the contrary."

"We request that the public not prejudge this case," said Shana Vegvary of the Shasta County Public Defender's Office.

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fawn fire
AP Photo/Ethan Swope

According to documents filed by an California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection law enforcement officer, obtained by the local outlet Record Searchlight, authorities claim Souverneva said she was hiking to Canada when she tried to filter, then boil, water from a puddle to drink. On her person, she allegedly had CO2 cartridges, a lighter and "a green, leafy substance she admitted to smoking that day," the document said.

As of Monday, the Fawn Fire is 60 percent contained, Cal Fire said.

NBC News reported that Souverneva is a former yoga instructor. A former colleague told the outlet, "She was into conservation and forests. ... She would have been the last person I would have thought to get involved in something like this."

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