Written by Fernando Acevedo
California fires burning throughout the state have reached important national parks and threaten thousands of homes. Authorities confirmed at least two of the fires started due to lightning strikes, but a third is under investigation.
One hiker is suspected of arson and believed to be the cause of the Fawn fire burning in Shasta County. This leaves many homeowners vulnerable to embers carried by the wind which can damage and burn a home. Additionally, California homes insurance plans may or may not cover those who lose it all.
Fires Reach National Sequoia Forest
The Windy and KNP Complex fires both began on September 9th during a lightning storm near the Tule River Indian Reservation. The fires spread to the Sequoia National Forest which is home to the Giant Forest, an iconic grove of more than 2,000 giant Sequoia trees. Firefighters are using controlled burns to remove brush and dry shrubs that can help the fire spread more rapidly to the trees.
California wildfire crews are working to protect one Sequoia in particular. General Sherman is the world’s largest tree, standing 275 feet tall and more than 2,500 years old.
The bases of Sherman and other large trees are covered in foil paper and sprinkler systems are installed in-between each tree. Officials are trying to keep the area wet to prevent the fire catching and spreading to the treetops.
Several conditions are helping officials contain the fires, including less wind and higher humidity levels. However, Cal Fire is expecting warm Santa Ana winds midweek which would ‘fan the flames’ and cause further spread. Compounding the danger is the California drought which makes many dry hillsides vulnerable.
Currently the Windy fire is only 2% contained, while the KNP Complex fire is 8% contained. Together, both fires cover over 130,000 acres and threaten more than 2,000 homes. The Fawn fire in Shasta County which covers 85,000 acres is 50% contained and officials have stopped the spread.
However, authorities are questioning one hiker suspected of starting this and possibly other fires in the area.
Hiker Suspected of Arson in California Wildfire
On Wednesday, Shasta County residents contacted authorities with a report of a woman acting “irrationally.” A criminal complaint stated that the woman, Alexandra Souverneva, 30, was trying to boil water to drink. She said she found a puddle with water mixed with bear urine, which she tried to filter with a teabag.
“She said that didn’t work so she attempted to make a fire to boil the water. She stated it was too wet for the fire to start. She said she drank the water anyway and then continued walking uphill from the creek bed,” the complaint read.
Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett said Souverneva had a lighter in her pocket. A preliminary investigation also cited arson as causing the fire. Bridgett also said that the suspect may also be tied to other California fires burning in the area. If found guilty, Souverneva faces 9 years in state prison. The DAs office warned civilians to stay alert and cautious as the fires continue to burn.
Uninsured Homes at Risk
Among those most affected by the wildfires are homeowners not insured against fire damage or loss. For those who are insured it’s still important to keep some fire damage claim tips in mind. This includes keeping inventory of all valuable possessions, contacting the insurer early on after damages occur, and keeping note of lifestyle expenses. Insurers will also send their adjuster to evaluate the value of the home and possessions prior to the incident. However, it is sometimes beneficial to hire a public adjuster who works for you and will try to better approximate the value of your possessions.