Story at a glance:

  • A woman who lists her occupation as “shaman” is charged with arson in connection to the Fawn Fire.
  • Her alleged destruction caused 41 homes and 90 small structures to burn down and threatened 2,340 others.
  • She has pleaded not guilty.

 A woman might have sparked a wildfire in California after boiling bear urine to drink. 

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Alexandra Souverneva, who lists her occupation as “shaman,” was charged with arson last week for allegedly starting the Fawn Fire in Shasta County, The Los Angeles Times reports.


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The fire ignited Wednesday, and by Friday had scorched more than 5,850 acres, according to The LA Times. 

Souverneva is facing one count of felony arson and an enhanced charge of committing arson during a state of emergency, which together could add up to nine years in prison. She has pleaded not guilty. 

Officials said they saw a woman trespassing and “acting irrationally” at a remote property near where the fire started on Wednesday. 

The 30-year-old, who is reportedly a doctoral student at SUNY’s New York College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry, said that she was hiking in California, hoping to reach Canada, when she became thirsty, according to The New York Post.

When Sourverneva spotted a huge puddle of liquid on the ground, she thought it was bear urine and tried to make a fire to boil it. The area was too wet to start a fire, so she drank the liquid and continued walking, according to The NY Post. 


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Sourverneva was going uphill when she got stuck in the brush and saw smoke and airplanes “dropping pink stuff,” according to the Redding Record-Searchlight. She contacted the fire department to help her. 

An officer asked her to open her fanny pack and pockets and found CO2 cartridges, a cigarette lighter and an item "containing a green, leafy substance she admitted to smoking that day," according to the outlet. 

On Wednesday, workers at a quarry reported seeing a woman discard two CO2 cartridges that match the ones that Sourverneva had. 

Souverneva’s attorney said Sourverneva made statements that indicated a mental health crisis or “something to do with drug abuse.”

The woman may also be linked to other fires in Shasta County and throughout California, the Redding Record-Searchlight reports.

“She is also under suspicion for starting other fires,” her attorney said. 


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Published on Sep 27, 2021