SHASTA COUNTY (CBS13/AP) - Palo Alto woman Alexandra Souverneva is suspected of lighting a fire near where the Fawn Fire started, Cal Fire announced on Thursday.
Employees working near the JF Shea and Mountain Gate Quarries reported seeing a woman trespassing at the property and acting irrationally.
Later in the day, authorities believe that the same woman, 30-year-old Palo Alto resident Alexandra Souverneva, emerged from the brush near the fire line and approached fire crews for help. Cal Fire said she had a lighter in her pocket at the time.
She was taken out of the area for evaluation and treatment. During an interview with Cal Fire and law enforcement, officers came to believe Souverneva was responsible for setting the fire, officials said. She was arrested and booked into the Shasta County Jail.
On Friday, she was charged Friday with felony arson to wildland with an enhancement due to the declared state of emergency California is under, said Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett.
Souverneva is also being investigated for starting other fires in Shasta County and throughout the state, Bridgett said.
According to her LinkedIn profile, Souverneva was enrolled as a Ph.D. student in the environmental chemistry program at State University of New York College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry. Also on her page, she lists her current occupation as "shaman."
The number of people affected by evacuation orders was not immediately known. People living in other areas were warned to be prepared to leave. About 2,000 structures were threatened.
The fire scorched more than 5,850 acres of heavy timber on steep, rugged terrain amid hot, dry, and gusty conditions. It was just 10% contained.
California fires have burned more than 3,671 square miles (9,507 square kilometers) this year, destroying more than 3,200 homes, commercial properties, and other structures.
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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