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Woman charged with starting Fawn Fire in California

Sept. 27 (UPI) -- A woman in California was charged with starting an 8,500-acre fire in the state, according to a criminal complaint.

Alexandra Souverneva, 30, was charged with felony arson with an enhancement of committing arson during a state of emergency for allegedly starting the Fawn Fire, according to Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett.

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Souverneva, of Palo Alto, pleaded not guilty in a court appearance on Friday.

The Fawn Fire began Sept. 22 and quickly erupted to more than 3,500 acres. It has now burned 8,559 acres and is 50% contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire.

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It has resulted in three injuries, destroyed 144 structures and damaged 22 more.

Judge Amy Ryan increased bail for Souverneva from $100,000 to $150,000 as she noted the damage related to the fire has grown.

Souverneva was seen hiking to Canada on Sept. 22 in the Mountain Gate community in Northern California where she kept walking after being told by quarry employees she was not allowed on the property, according to a narrative written by a Cal Fire officer.

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During the hike Souverneva became thirsty and found a puddle of water in a dry creek that allegedly had bear urine in it so she tried to filter it with a teabag, according to the complaint.

"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 officer wrote.

She then called the fire department after getting sick in some brush. She was evaluated by the fire department for dehydration and questioned by Cal Fire authorities and she allegedly told them she tried to light a fire.

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After she was taken into custody, Souverneva was found with CO2 cartridges, a cigarette lighter and a "white item containing a green leafy substance," according to the complaint.

The Shasta County district attorney said Souverneva was also suspected of starting other fires in the area.

"We are aware that there are possible additional fires here in our county that she may be linked to as well as charges in other fires, statewide," she said at a news conference. "My office will not hesitate to prosecute (any) person who either intentionally or recklessly starts a fire."

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