Woman Suspected of Starting Fawn Fire That Has Burned 25 Structures, Threatening 2,000

The woman suspected of starting the Fawn Fire in Northern California was arrested Wednesday, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

CalFire workers reported seeing a woman acting strangely and trespassing neat the area in Shasta County where the fire started Wednesday, the agencies said in a statement.

Alexandra Souverneva walked out of the brush near the fire line and asked firefighters for medical assistance, CalFire said.

After receiving treatment, Souverneva was interviewed by CalFire and law enforcement about the incident. Based on the information they gathered, officials came to believe she was responsible for starting the fire. Souverneva was arrested and booked at the Shasta County Jail.

Officials said 25 structures were burned and about 2,000 structures were threatened, as evacuation orders were put in place Thursday.

Wildfire California
Alexandra Souverneva, a woman suspected of starting the Fawn Fire in Shasta County, was arrested Wednesday, CalFire said. Above, the Windy Fire blazes through the Long Meadow Grove of giant sequoia trees near The Trail of 100 Giants overnight in Sequoia National Forest on September 21, near California Hot Springs, California. David McNew/Getty Images

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

KRCR-TV aired video Thursday of multiple houses burning near the unincorporated Mountain Gate area north of the city of Redding.

The fire scorched more than 8.5 square miles of heavy timber on steep, rugged terrain amid hot, dry and gusty conditions. The fire is just 5 percent contained.

Statewide, more than 9,000 firefighters remained assigned to 10 large, active wildfires, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

California fires have burned 3,671 square miles this year, destroying more than 3,200 homes, commercial properties and other structures.

Those fires include two big forest blazes growing in the heart of California's giant sequoia country on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada. Smoke from those fires raised air quality concerns for the southern end of the Central Valley and flowed over greater Los Angeles, darkening skies and causing mistaken reports of mountain fires.

On Wednesday, officials showed reporters how Sequoia National Park's famous Giant Forest has been protected from the KNP Complex fire by years of using carefully set and controlled fires to burn away vegetation that can serve as wildfire fuel.

The bases of some of the most famous giant sequoias were also wrapped in fire-resistant materials. Giant Forest has 2,000 sequoias and includes the General Sherman Tree, the largest tree in the world by volume.

The fear of catastrophic fire coming through that section of the national park has been greatly reduced because of the combination of the prescribed burns and the low intensity of the fire that moved into part of the forest, said Ed Christopher, deputy fire director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"And because of that, we feel that the majority of the trees in this Giant Forest area should come out of this event like they have for the past thousands of years," he said.

Historic drought tied to climate change is making wildfires harder to fight. It has killed millions of trees in California alone. Scientists say climate change has made the West much warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.

Sequoia Trees Protected Against Wildfires
The woman suspected of starting the Fawn Fire in Shasta County, California was arrested, CalFire said. Above, Jon Wallace, Operations Section Chief, looks over General Sherman where the historic tree was protected by structure wrap from fires along with the Four Guardsmen at Sequoia National Park, Calif., Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021. Gary Kazanjian/AP Photo

The KNP Complex began as two fires ignited by lightning on September 9. The fires later merged into one and have charred more than 56 square miles. Sequoia and adjacent Kings Canyon National Park have been closed. Several communities are under evacuation orders or warnings for people to be prepared to leave. There was no containment.

Nearby, the Windy Fire has burned through nearly 77 square miles on the Tule River Indian Reservation and in Sequoia National Forest, including Giant Sequoia National Monument. It was just 6 percent contained.

Also ignited by lightning on September 9, the Windy Fire has forced the evacuation of small forest communities, but no privately owned structures had burned as of Thursday morning. A fire lookout structure and a radio repeater site on a peak were destroyed by the blaze.

The fire has moved through several groves of giant sequoias and damaged one of the big trees on the famed Trail of 100 Giants. An expert from Yosemite National Park was expected to examine the groves Thursday.