Couple charged after gender reveal sparked deadly bushfire

·2-min read

A couple whose gender reveal party was blamed for starting a deadly California wildfire last year have been charged with involuntary manslaughter.

The El Dorado Fire in California burned across 22,000 acres in Southern California in 2020, injuring 13 people and killing 39-year-old firefighter Charlie Morton.

The blaze was allegedly started after Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr and Angela Renee Jimenez released a "smoke generating pyrotechnic device" — meant to release coloured smoke to reveal the gender of their baby — but instead ignited the dry grass around it. 

The out-of-control El Dorado Fire burned for 23 days, burning 22, 000 acres and killing a firefighter. Source: Getty
The out-of-control El Dorado Fire burned for 23 days, burning 22, 000 acres and killing a firefighter. Source: Getty

The couple pleaded not guilty

Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr and Angela Renee Jimenez were both charged with one felony count of involuntary manslaughter, the San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson announced in a press conference on Tuesday.

Other charges include 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 misdemeanour counts of recklessly causing fire to property.

They were released on their own recognisance, despite the prosecutors requesting they each be held on US$50,000 (approx A$68,000) bail until they next appear in court in September.

According to the Desert Sun, the couple face sentences that range from years of "lower teens to low 20s" if found guilty on all charges. 

The fire burned for 23 days, destroying homes and properties

The El Dorado fire burned across 22, 000 acres of Southern California for 23 days, destroying homes and other properties.

It began burning on September 5, 2020, with authorities saying when the device malfunctioned it ignited the dry surrounding grass, with strong winds fanning the fire, causing it to spread uncontrollably to the national forest land and forcing hundreds of people to evacuate.

The blaze was extinguished on November 16, 2020.

Gender reveals has received heavy criticism over the past few years, due to accidents stemming from extravagant reveals.

Earlier this year, parents of an unborn child sent shock waves through homes in the US state of New Hampshire, after they let off cannon containing nearly 40 kilograms of explosives, causing people to think it was an earthquake. 

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