Couple Charged in Fire Sparked by Gender Reveal

Massive blaze killed California firefighter
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 20, 2021 7:48 PM CDT
Couple Charged in Fire Sparked by Gender Reveal
Firefighters rush up Highway 38 as the El Dorado Fire burns in heavy timber north of Angelus Oaks, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020.   (Will Lester/The Orange County Register via AP)

A couple whose gender reveal ceremony sparked a southern California wildfire that killed a firefighter last year were charged with involuntary manslaughter, authorities announced Tuesday. The couple pleaded not guilty Monday to charges involving the El Dorado Fire, San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson announced at a news conference where he identified them as the Jiminez family. The charges included one felony count of involuntary manslaughter, three felony counts of recklessly causing a fire with great bodily injury, four felony counts of recklessly causing a fire to inhabited structures, and 22 misdemeanor counts of recklessly causing fire to property, the AP reports. The El Dorado Fire erupted on Sept. 5 when the couple, their young children, and someone there to record video staged a baby gender reveal at El Dorado Ranch Park at the foot of the San Bernardino Mountains.

A smoke-generating pyrotechnic device was set off in a field and quickly ignited dry grass on a scorching day. The couple frantically tried to use bottled water to douse the flames and called 911, authorities said. Strong winds stoked the fire as it ran through wilderness on national forest land about 75 miles east of Los Angeles. On Sept. 17, flames overran a remote area where firefighters were cutting fire breaks, killing Charles Morton, the 39-year-old leader of the elite Big Bear Interagency Hotshot Squad. Morton had worked as a firefighter for 18 years, 14 of them with the US Forest Service. The blaze, which was not contained until Nov. 16, injured 13 other people and forced the evacuations of hundreds of people in small communities in the San Bernardino National Forest area. It destroyed five homes and 15 other buildings.

(More California wildfires stories.)

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