A California woman professing to be a shaman who was arrested and charged with igniting the wildfire that has thousands of homes under threat claimed the fire was started inadvertently while she was attempting to boil bear urine, authorities said.
Alexandra Souverneva, 30, could be sentenced to up to nine years if convicted of starting the Fawn fire, according to officials.
The blaze has destroyed roughly 41 homes and 90 small structures while endangering another 2,340, officials said.
Souverneva pleaded not guilty but is now reportedly thought to have ignited several fires across California.
The self-proclaimed shaman said she had been hiking to Canada as the blaze approached Shasta County on Wednesday, documents noted.
When she became thirsty and approached a puddle of what she claimed to be bear urine, she told forest officials she attempted to make a fire to purify it.
The wood she hoped to use was "too wet for the fire to start," documents said.
Souverneva then drank the animal urine and proceeded on her journey, according to the report.
She allegedly became caught in some brush and had to call the local fire department for assistance.
The firefighters requested she empty her pockets and fanny pack, to which she presented CO2 canisters, a lighter, and "a green, leafy substance she admitted to smoking that day," California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection officer Matt Alexander said.
Alexandra Souverneva. (Courtesy of Shasta County Sheriff's Office)
Witnesses said Souverneva, who on her LinkedIn lists "shaman" as her occupation and indicates that she was a doctoral student at State University of New York's New York College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry, dropped two CO2 cartridges the day the fire started, Alexander said.
Souverneva's statements might indicate mental illness or drug abuse, her attorney argued.
"She is also under suspicion for starting other fires," her attorney said.
"There is a high possibility she is responsible" for a blaze the preceding night, according to Alexander.
"It is my experience that arsonists … will light multiple fires in a short time frame," he said.
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Original Author: Luke Gentile