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Reports: Woman claims she was trying to boil bear urine when officers say she started Fawn Fire

Alexandra Souverneva, 30, faces a felony arson charge.
Credit: AP
Firefighter Ron Burias battles the Fawn Fire as it spreads north of Redding, Calif. in Shasta County, on Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Ethan Swope)

REDDING, Calif. — The woman accused of starting a fire currently burning through thousands of acres in Northern California reportedly said she was attempting to boil bear urine out of the water to drink it.

Authorities say Alexandra Souverneva, 30, “willfully, unlawfully and maliciously” started a fire while on a hike, the Washington Post reports. 

The blaze, now known as the Fawn Fire, has already caused thousands to evacuate their homes. California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a state of emergency for Shasta County on Monday for the fire, which has burned 8,578 acres so far and destroyed several homes in its path.

As of Thursday morning, the blaze was 85-percent contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, which added that three firefighters were injured and 185 structures were destroyed.

According to the arrest report, CAL Fire officers were dispatched to a reported "vegetation fire" located in a deep and remote canyon at a quarry in the afternoon hours of Sept. 22.

Employees reportedly said they had seen a woman trespassing on the private property and "acting irrationally" earlier in the day. Around 8 p.m., while firefighters were working to control the blaze, they said the woman, later identified as Alexandra Souverneva, walked out of the brush and approached firefighters saying she was dehydrated and needed medical treatment.

After being treated, CAL fire says she was interviewed by officers who were led to believe she was responsible for starting the fire. They asked Souverneva to empty her pockets and fanny pack, revealing a lighter, CO2 cartridges and “a pink and white item containing a green leafy substance she admitted to smoking that day," the Washington Post reports.

She reportedly told officers she stopped her hike at a puddle to drink water and found it “contained bear urine.”  After trying to “filter the water with a tea bag,” she told officers she “attempted to make a fire to boil” it, but that “it was too wet for the fire to start," the Post adds.

Souverneva was arrested and transported to the Shasta County Jail where the district attorney's office recommended she be charged with "arson to wildland."

Souverneva faces a felony arson charge with an enhancement of committing arson during a state of emergency, according to the district attorney's office. CNN reports she could face up to nine years in state prison, and it's possible she could face more charges as the Fawn Fire continues to burn.

"We are aware that there are possible additional fires here in our county that she may be linked to, as well as other charges and other fires statewide," Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett said at a news conference.