Alexandra Souverneva Palo Alto, California woman and self described shaman charged with starting California wildfire after claiming accidentally starting blaze boiling bear urine.
A former forestry student and self described shaman and yoga teacher has been charged with starting a wildfire, leading to the destruction of 41 California homes and threatening thousands more after boiling bear urine to drink, that she claims ‘accidentally’ triggered the raging blaze.
Alexandra Souverneva, of Palo Alto, was charged Friday with felony arson to wild-land with an enhancement because of a declared state of emergency in California, Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett said. The 8,500 acre blaze the 30 year-old is accused of starting has wrecked 41 homes, and 90 other structures, and is threatening 2,340 others, officials have said.
Souverneva pleaded not guilty but could face up to nine years in state prison if convicted. She is also suspected of starting additional fires in Shasta County and throughout the state according to the Redding Record-Searchlight.
As the fire in Shasta County raged on Wednesday, Souverneva claimed she’d been hiking and trying to get to Canada.
She told forest officials that she was thirsty and had come across a puddle of what she believed to be bear urine — and tried to make a fire to boil it, according to cited documents.
CO2 cartridges & a cigarette lighter
She found it was ‘too wet for the fire to start,’ so she downed the water that she thought was animal urine and continued on her way, the report said.
Souverneva eventually got trapped in the brush amid the inferno and had to call the fire department to help her, according to the report.
She was asked to empty her pockets and fanny pack — which had CO2 cartridges, a cigarette lighter and an item ‘containing a green, leafy substance she admitted to smoking that day,’ according to Cal Fire officer Matt Alexander.
Workers at a nearby quarry reported seeing a woman toss two small CO2 cartridges that matched the ones found in her bag on the same day the Fawn Fire ignited, Alexander said in court documents.
On her LinkedIn profile, Souverneva lists shaman — a person who claims to have a direct connection with the world’s good and evil spirits — as her current occupation and indicates that she was a doctoral student at SUNY’s New York College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry.
The woman’s profile indicates Souverneva previously working as a scientist, with her most recent job as that of an SAT tutor. Souverneva is known to be a graduate of the California Institute of Technology and former Bay Area biotech employee.
An attorney for Souverneva told her initial court hearing that she’d made statements to law enforcement that indicated a possible mental health crisis ‘or something to do with drug abuse.’
Suspected of starting other fires
‘She is also under suspicion for starting other fires,’ said the un-named attorney.
Alexander said in a report that ‘there is a high possibility she is responsible’ for a fire the previous evening, too.
‘It is my experience that arsonists … will light multiple fires in a short timeframe,’ Alexander said, according to the paper.
At a press conference, Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett said Souverneva had contact with law enforcement in connection to arson ‘in our county and other counties as well’ but did not elaborate.
The 30-year-old has a past criminal record that includes several run-ins with the law, including most recently earlier this month, when she was picked up on suspicion of trespassing.
Shasta County Sheriff Michael L. Johnson broke news of the arrest to residents who’d been displaced or had their homes destroyed, the Mercury News reported.
‘It is difficult to grasp when disaster like this is, apparently, not a natural disaster. But we have a suspect,’ Johnson told them.
As a result of the damage caused by the wildfire, Souverneva’s bail was been increased to $150,000 from $100,000 for the felony charge of arson on forest land. An additional $25,000 was added for a related misdemeanor, arson during a state of emergency.