A woman seen in the area of the explosive Fawn Fire in Shasta County on Wednesday who later sought help from firefighters has now been arrested on suspicion of being the arsonist behind it.
The Fawn Fire began as a small vegetation fire on Wednesday in the area of Fawndale Road, north of the Mountain Gate quarry. The woman, identified as 30-year-old Alexandra Souverneva of Palo Alto, had been seen by employees at the quarry and the neighboring JF Shea quarry "acting irrationally" earlier in the day, according to a statement from Cal Fire.
The fire began around 4:45 p.m. in a remote canyon that is only accessible through the quarry properties, as NBC Bay Area reports.
"At approximately 8:00 PM, while firefighters were engaged in fighting the fire, a woman, later identified as [Souverneva]... walked out of the brush near the fire line and approached firefighters stating she was dehydrated and needed medical treatment," Cal Fire says. Souverneva was then transported away to get treatment.
She was then interviewed by Cal Fire Law Enforcement officers, and she gave them information that led them to believe she caused the fire. They arrested her and then transported her to the Shasta County Jail. Cal Fire will submit its case to the district attorney and recommend she be charged with arson to wildland. The charge comes with an enhancement stemming from the current wildfire state of emergency.
A Facebook account that appears to belong to to Souverneva has only a handful of public photos without captions visible, including one of the Yoda statue in the Presidio.
Arson was not a factor in the major wildfires last summer that spread across multiple Bay Area counties in August and September, which were sparked by lightning. However this story calls to mind the suspected case of arson within the LNU Complex fire scar, that was believed to have set to cover up a murder.
The Markley Fire, which broke out on August 17, 2020, near Monticello Dam, is believed to have been set by 29-year-old Victor Serriteno of Vacaville, in order to cover up the murder of a woman he met online, 32-year-old Priscilla Castro. Serriteno was arrested and charged with Castro's murder, and the arson, in April.
Also, amid high fire danger and tensions over Red Flag warnings in Sonoma County, an arsonist was traveling around Healdsburg setting a spree of small fires two weeks ago, any one of which could have led to disaster. No arrest has been made in that case.
The Fawn Fire had grown to 1,200 acres as of 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, and was just 5% contained. A number of evacuation orders were in place, as well as evacuation warnings.
As the LA Times reports from a Cal Fire briefing, the fire is burning in an area of heavy timber and rugged terrain. And windy conditions overnight caused the fire to "spot" in multiple locations.