At first glance, the image of the billows of smoke above looks like something out of an apocalyptic horror movie. Nonetheless, if there’s anything the climate crisis has taught us over the past few months, it’s that fire and smoke are unfortunately part of the new normal for now. So no, the image above isn’t a movie still: It’s real scene from the new Fawn fire.
The Fawn fire began on Wednesday in the Mountain Gate area near the city of Redding, which is located on Interstate 5 about two and half hours north of Sacramento. By Thursday, the fire had consumed more than 5,000 acres, threatened 2,000 structures, destroyed 25 structures, and prompted the evacuation of 4,000 people in Shasta County. The situation has affected 30,000 people, with Sheriff Michael Johnson declaring a local county emergency early Thursday.
According to the latest update from Cal Fire, the Fawn fire is burning in steep, rugged terrain, which makes it difficult for firefighters to contain it. In addition, the department stated that windy conditions overnight on Wednesday caused the fire to spot in many areas. The Fawn fire is currently 5% contained.
Although a Cal Fire Shasta Trinity unit spokeswoman told the Los Angeles Times that the cause of the fire was still under investigation, the department said in a news statement that it had arrested a woman suspected of causing the fire.
Cal Fire identified the woman as Alexandra Souverneva, a 30-year-old from Palo Alto. Employees saw Souverneva trespassing in the area near the JF Shea and Mountain Gate quarries and “acting irrationally.” Cal Fire and other firefighting agencies had gone to the area to respond to a reported vegetation fire near Mountain Gate when they saw Souverneva, who walked out of the brush near the fire line. She told firefighters that she was dehydrated and needed medical treatment, which she received.
“Souverneva was then interviewed by CAL FIRE Law Enforcement Officers and information was gathered leading officers to believe Souverneva is responsible for causing the fire,” the department said. “She was subsequently arrested then transported and booked into the Shasta County Jail.”
Cal Fire is recommending that the Shasta County District Attorney’s Office charge Souverneva with arson to wildland, which will receive an enhancement because California is currently in a state of emergency due to wildfires.