SHASTA COUNTY (CBS SF) -- According to court documents, the Bay Area woman accused of starting the Fawn Fire in Shasta County last week was attempting to boil bear urine so she could drink it when she allegedly set off the destructive blaze.
In a bizarre turn of events, charging documents said 30-year-old Palo Alto resident Alexandra Souverneva accidentally started the fire as she attempted to boil water from a puddle to drink.
Souverneva had been hiking to Canada on September 22 and was seen in the Mountain Gate community in Northern California, according to a narrative written by a Cal Fire officer. She was told she couldn't be on the property by quarry employees, but kept walking.
She then became thirsty and found a puddle of water in a dry creek bed, but the water allegedly had bear urine in it so she tried to filter the water with a tea bag, the officer said.
"She said that didn't work so she attempted to make a fire to boil the water. She stated it was too wet for the fire to start. She said she drank the water anyway and then continued walking uphill from the creek bed," the complaint read.
Souverneva got stuck in brush and called the fire department, the complaint read. She was evaluated for dehydration and then questioned by Cal Fire authorities when she allegedly told them she tried to light a fire. Souverneva was taken into custody.
She was found with with CO2 cartridges, a cigarette lighter and a "white item containing a green leafy substance," the complaint read.
Souverneva pleaded not guilty to arson charges Friday. It wasn't immediately known if she has an attorney who could speak on her behalf.
The Cal Fire officer who arrested her also said he believes there is a high possibility that she additionally started a separate vegetation fire the night before the Fawn Fire broke out in the city of Shasta Lake.
Souverneva faces a felony arson charge with an enhancement of committing arson during a state of emergency, according to Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett. She could face up to nine years in state prison.
On Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency for Shasta County to support the response to the destructive Fawn Fire burning north of Redding.
The fire -- which started on Wednesday, possibly at the hands of Souverneva -- has so far consumed approximately 8,577 acres and was 60% contained as of the latest Cal Fire update Monday evening at 7 p.m..
So far the Fawn Fire has destroyed 144 homes and other structures, causing thousands of residents to be evacuated from the area. However, improving weather conditions and cooler temperatures allowed fire crews to make progress over the weekend, raising containment to 35% as of Sunday morning.
The fire at one point threatened 9,000 buildings but the number dropped to 2,340 on Sunday. The light rain that fell periodically over parts of Northern California on Monday was also helping the efforts to contain the fire.
Last week, California secured a Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help ensure the availability of vital resources to suppress the Fawn Fire.
Officials said the state has previously secured FMAGs to support the response to the Dixie Fire in Lassen, Butte and Plumas counties and the response to the French Fire, Caldor Fire, Monument Fire, River Fire and Lava Fire.
The White House earlier this month approved a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration and Presidential Emergency Declaration to support the Caldor Fire response, and previously approved a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration to support counties impacted by the Dixie and River fires.
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