A woman has been arrested for igniting a wildfire which destroyed 144 buildings, prompting the evacuation of thousands of people, while trying to boil water, authorities in Northern California said.
Alexandra Souverneva, 30, is now facing a “felony arson charge with an enhancement of committing arson during a state of emergency,” according to CNN.
Authorities have said that the woman could face up to nine years in a state prison and might face even more charges as the fire is still burning and the investigation is ongoing.
The wildfire in question became known as the Fawn Fire which began on September 22. As of Monday evening, the fire was around 60 percent contained, CNN reported, adding that the fire had burned more than 8,500 acres of land and prompted Governor Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency in the Shasta County.
“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,” District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett said at a news conference Friday.
“My office will not hesitate to prosecute [any] person who either intentionally or recklessly starts a fire.”
“It is difficult to grasp when disaster like this is, apparently, not a natural disaster, but we have a suspect, and this might be an arson case,” Shasta County Sheriff Michael Johnson said during a community meeting Saturday, according to NBC.
The 30-year-old onetime yoga instructor Souverneva pleaded not guilty.
She was hiking to Canada on September 22 and was seen in the Mountain Gate Community in Northern California where she was told she was not allowed on the property by the community’s employees, but she kept walking, according to a Cal fire officer.
When she got thirsty, she came across a puddle of water in a dry creek bed, so she tried to filter it with a tea bag. This method did not work so she them attempted to create a fire so she could boil the water, stating that it was “too wet for the fire to start,” said the officer.
“She said she drank the water anyway and then continued walking uphill from the creek bed.”
Souverneva then got stuck in a bush and called the fire department. She was evaluated for dehydration and then questioned by Cal Fire when she allegedly told them she attempted to light a fire. She was then taken into custody.
The woman was found carrying a cigarette lighter, CO2 cartridges and a “white item containing a green leafy substance,” according to the complaint report.
Her bail was set at $150,000 and she is due in court on October 5.