Woman Charged With Arson in Starting California Wildfire, Officials Say

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U.S.|Woman Charged With Arson successful Starting California Wildfire, Officials Say


The Fawn fire, which has burned astir 10,000 acres, was spreading rapidly connected Friday, a time aft the authorities accused a Palo Alto pistillate of igniting the blaze.

Flames devour  a location   astir  10 miles northbound  of Redding, Calif., arsenic  the Fawn occurrence  burns connected  Thursday.
Credit...Ethan Swope/Associated Press

Sept. 24, 2021, 8:37 p.m. ET

A pistillate from Palo Alto, Calif., was charged with arson successful transportation with a wildfire that has burned astir 9,850 acres and damaged much than 25 buildings successful Shasta County, worsening the toll of an already brutal occurrence play successful the state, the authorities said.

The woman, Alexandra Souverneva, 30, who was arrested connected Thursday, could look up to 9 years successful authorities situation if convicted, Shasta County prosecutors said. The Fawn occurrence was astir 10 percent contained arsenic of Friday nighttime and prompted mandatory evacuations successful parts of the county.

Ms. Souverneva whitethorn person besides acceptable different fires successful Shasta County, which is successful Northern California, the authorities said. Officials declined to specify which different fires she whitethorn beryllium tied to but the region territory attorney, Stephanie A. Bridgett, said successful an interrogation connected Friday that it was much than 1 successful her region and astatine slightest different successful a abstracted county.

Wildfires successful California have burned astir 2 cardinal acres truthful acold this year, according to Cal Fire, the state’s firefighting agency.

Employees of a section concern successful the Mountain Gate country adjacent Redding, astir 160 miles northbound of Sacramento, told Cal Fire officials that Ms. Souverneva was seen trespassing and “acting strangely” connected Wednesday, erstwhile the occurrence started, Ms. Bridgett said astatine a news conference connected Friday night. She did not elaborate.

Ms. Souverneva was asked to leave, and employees saw her fly toward the hills supra their determination that afternoon, said J. T. Zulliger, the Cal Fire battalion chief. The occurrence began astir that clip astatine 4:45 p.m. section time, helium said.

Cal Fire officials past saw Ms. Souverneva travel retired of the brushwood with a lighter successful her pocket, Ms. Bridgett said. Ms. Souverneva told the firefighters astatine the country that she was dehydrated and needed aesculapian treatment, Ms. Bridgett said.

“She was close there, astatine precise adjacent proximity to wherever the occurrence started,” Ms. Bridgett said. Ms. Souverneva came retired of a wooded country “where nary different radical were at,” Ms. Bridgett said.

After being medically treated and evacuated, she was arrested, Chief Zulliger said.

A connection near astatine a telephone fig listed for Ms. Souverneva was not answered connected Friday. It was not instantly wide whether she had a lawyer.

Ms. Souverneva majored successful chemistry and biology astatine the California Institute of Technology and graduated successful 2012, said Kathy A. Svitil, a schoolhouse spokeswoman. According to her LinkedIn profile, Ms. Souverneva worked arsenic a part-time tutor successful 2020 and a researcher of medicinal chemistry astatine Gilead Sciences earlier that.

The Fawn occurrence has been spreading rapidly due to the fact that of adust winds, the authorities said. “People are having to fly the country precise quickly,” Ms. Bridgett said. “There are a batch of assemblage members that are inactive evacuating.”

Images posted by tv presumption KRCR showed smoke-choked skies, fires turning structures into ash and woody houses collapsing successful a agleam orangish and reddish blaze.

Fourteen arson arrests person been made this twelvemonth successful Shasta County, and 103 person been made statewide, according to Chief Zulliger. He did not stock a imaginable motive successful Ms. Souverneva’s case, but helium said that arsonists typically enactment connected compulsion.

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