A couple whose gender reveal party started a wildfire in Southern California in 2020 is now facing manslaughter charges, after the leader of an elite firefighting team was killed, CBS reports. The couple has been charged with 30 crimes after they set off a smoke bomb in Yucaipa, California, on September 5 that burned more than 22,000 acres across two Southern California counties, said San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson.
Cal Fire confirmed last fall the cause of the fire was a "smoke-generating pyrotechnic device," and reminded residents that it "doesn’t take much to start a wildfire" during "dry conditions" and “critical fire weather.”
Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr. and Angela Renee Jimenez, the couple in question, were indicted by a grand jury on one count each of involuntary manslaughter, Anderson said Tuesday. The couple also faces 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.
Speaking on the death of 39-year-old Charles Morton, the firefighter who was killed, Anderson said: "Obviously, he wouldn't have been out there if this hadn't started in the first place. He's fighting a fire that was started because of a smoke bomb. That's the only reason he's there." Morton was a squad boss of the US Forest Service Big Bear Hotshots.
"You're obviously dealing with lost lives, you're dealing with injured lives, and you're dealing with people's residences that were burned and their land that was burned," Anderson continued. "That encompasses a lot of, not only emotion, but damage, both financially and psychologically."
This isn’t the first time a gender reveal party has gone horribly wrong. The whole concept should be outdated at this point — it's about time people stop projecting and enforcing the gender binary on unborn children based on their genitals. Furthermore, many of these events have also ended in disasters in recent years, including two separate plane crashes.
In 2019, a friend of expecting parents planned an elaborate stunt that involved dumping gallons of pink water from a small plane, which resulted in a plane crashing in rural Texas. Luckily the pilot wasn't injured, and a second passenger sustained only minor injuries. However, a second plane crashed into the Caribbean Sea in a separate gender reveal antic earlier this year that left two people dead. Yet another gender reveal ended in disaster when a family accidentally built a pipe bomb for their announcement in 2019, which killed a grandmother at the party.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Jimenez pleaded not guilty to the charges they face for starting the El Dorado fire that left 13 people injured and forced hundreds to evacuate. At the time of the fire, the couple called 911 and frantically tried to put out the fire with bottled water. But the fire raged on for months and was finally extinguished on November 16. The couple could face up to 20 years in jail each if convicted.
US Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen called Morton "a well-respected firefighter and leader who was always there for his squad and his crew at the toughest times." She added, "Our hearts go out to Charlie's loved ones, coworkers, friends, and the Big Bear Hotshots. We will keep them in our thoughts and prayers."