REDDING, Calif .– The Bay Area woman charged with arson in connection with the Fawn blaze earlier this week could be linked to other fires in California, the Shasta County prosecutor said, Stephanie Bridgett, at a Friday morning press conference.
Felony charges were filed this week against Alexandra Andreevna Souverneva, “not only for arson, but also for committing arson during the state of emergency”, which carries a nine-year prison sentence , said Bridgett.
As the investigation into the Fawn Fire is still ongoing, Bridgett added, additional charges are likely, depending on the final damage and the outcome of the investigation.
The complaint was filed in Shasta County Superior Court on Friday.
On Friday afternoon, Souverneva, 30, pleaded not guilty to arraignment before Judge Adam Ryan. The judge said he raised his bail to $ 150,000, compared to $ 100,000 for the charge of arson on forest land, plus $ 25,000 for a related misdemeanor, arson during the state of ’emergency.
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Ryan said he is considering the damage caused by the wildfire so far by increasing the amount of the bond.
During the court appearance, a lawyer said Souverneva made statements to law enforcement that indicated a possible mental health crisis “or something to do with drug addiction.”
This lawyer said that the day after Souverneva was released from Shasta County Jail on her own pledge, “she started the Fawn Fire. She is also suspected of having started other fires.”
When asked if Souverneva admitted to setting it on fire, Bridgett said at the press conference: “I can’t get into any other facts other than those we have already disclosed at this time.”
At the press conference, Bridgett said Souverneva had also had contact with law enforcement regarding arson “in our county and in other counties as well.” Bridgett declined to identify any other fires that Souverneva could be linked to.
According to an account filed by a law enforcement officer with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, a JF Shea quarry employee reported seeing a woman breaking into company property. around 9 a.m. on Wednesday September 22.
She was told she was not allowed on the property, but ignored these warnings and continued to walk through the vegetation, according to the account.
Later that day, Cal Fire firefighters were dispatched to a wildfire on the same property.
At around 8 p.m. on Wednesday, as crews worked to put out the blaze, a Cal Fire captain reported that he had contacted a woman on the brink of the blaze. She was “medically cleared” at that time, according to the account.
When asked why she was in the area, Souverneva said she hiked in an attempt to get to Canada, according to the report. Along the way, she said she got thirsty and found a puddle of water containing what she believed to be bear urine, according to the report.
Souverneva said she tried unsuccessfully to filter the water with a tea bag, according to the account. Then she attempted to make a fire to boil the water, but found it to be “too wet for the fire to light,” according to the report.
According to the report, “she said she drank some water anyway, then continued to climb up from the creek bed,” where she saw smoke and planes “drop stuff roses”. After that, Souverneva got stuck in the brush and eventually contacted the fire department for help, according to the report.
Cal Fire Officer Matt Alexander said in the court file that he was able to identify Souverneva using his US passport and a police pre-booking photo.
Alexander asked Souverneva to empty her pockets and fanny pack, which contained CO2 cartridges, a lighter and an item “containing a green, leafy substance that she admitted to having smoked that day,” according to the file. the officer.
At this point, Souverneva was arrested and taken to Shasta County Jail, where she was convicted of arson on forest land charges, according to the court record.
On the same day the Fawn fire started, workers at the JF Shea quarry reported seeing a woman throwing two small CO2 cartridges that matched those later found in Souverneva’s fanny pack, according to the report. Alexander’s story.
Evidence of ignition sources gathered during the investigation in the area of origin of the fire led authorities to “believe the suspect was there”, said Cal fire battalion chief JT Zulliger at the press conference on Friday.
When asked where she was on September 21, Souverneva told Alexander that she had been in Shasta County Jail, was released around 4 p.m. and had walked north. to an area surrounded by vegetation.
A wildfire was reported that night in Lake Shasta, according to Alexander’s report.
“In my opinion, there is a strong possibility that she was responsible for the vegetation fire in Shasta Lake City the night before,” Alexander wrote. “In my experience, arsonists (…) will start several fires in a short period of time.”
Follow Michele Chandler on Twitter at @MChandler_RS