Photo courtesy of Cal Fire Shasta Trinity Unit and the Shasta County Fire Department.

Paly alum arrested, charged with arson in connection to Fawn wildfire

Shasta County Law Enforcement arrested a Palo Alto woman and Paly alum Thursday for allegedly starting the Fawn Fire north of Redding, Calif.

The suspected arsonist, Alexandra Souverneva, graduated from Paly in 2009 and tutored Palo Alto students in chemistry and biology through AJ Tutoring after getting a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Sciences and Forestry from the California Institute of Technology in 2012. She was charged with arson to wildland with an enhancement due to the declared state of emergency in California because of drought conditions, Shasta County police reports said.

The wildfire started Wednesday in a remote canyon only accessible through JF Shea and Mountain Gate Quarries. A statement by Shasta County Cal Fire said the fire has burned over 5,500 acres since 7 p.m. on Thursday and that more than 4,000 people who live near the fire have been evacuated. 

On Wednesday, quarry employees reported seeing a white adult woman trespassing and said she was acting irrationally. At 8 p.m., police reports say Souverneva walked out of the brush around the fire, dehydrated and seeking medical attention. 

Shasta County firefighters removed Souverneva from the fire line, examining and treating her. Shasta County Law Enforcement Officers then interviewed her and arrested her on a charge of arson to wildlife.

Souverneva worked for AJ Tutoring, where she taught senior Hannah Ramrakhiani and a group of four other PAUSD seniors during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ramrakhiani said she was shocked to hear of the charges against Souverneva.

“She is so smart and such a good chemistry tutor, and she was always so nice and calm,” Ramrakhiani said.

Souverneva did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on this story, and representatives from AJ Tutoring did not immediately respond to calls or an email seeking comment on this story.