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A Couple Whose Gender Reveal Allegedly Sparked A Deadly Wildfire Were Charged With Involuntary Manslaughter

The couple could face up to 20 years in prison.

Posted on July 20, 2021, at 9:26 p.m. ET

Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG via AP

A firefighter puts out a hot spot along Highway 38 as the El Dorado fire continues to burn on Sept. 10, 2020.

A Southern California couple were charged Tuesday for allegedly setting off a smoke bomb to reveal the sex of their unborn baby, which caused a wildfire that killed a firefighter and burned more than 22,000 acres.

San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson announced the charges against Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr. and Angela Renee Jimenez at a press conference. The couple pleaded not guilty to 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 misdemeanors of recklessly causing fire to property.

On Sept. 5, 2020, the El Dorado fire started in El Dorado Park near Yucaipa, California, before expanding explosively in the dry conditions. The fire lasted for 23 days and burned 22,000 acres across the county, resulting in hundreds of people fleeing their homes. Five homes were destroyed, along with more than a dozen other structures. The fire injured two firefighters and killed one, Charles Morton.

Sharing our deepest sympathies from Chief Vicki Christiansen: “Thursday evening we lost one of our own. Charlie Morton, Squad Boss for the Big Bear Interagency Hotshot Crew of the San Bernardino National Forest, was tragically killed during efforts to... (continued)

Twitter: @SanBernardinoNF

Anderson said the fire had a “tremendous impact on the community,” and it was a “complex case.” If the couple are found guilty, they could face as long as 20 years in prison, he said.

In 2017, another gender-reveal party caused a wildfire in Arizona that burned 47,000 acres. By the end, 800 firefighters worked to extinguish the blaze, which cost the state $8 million; Dennis Dickey, the father, pleaded guilty and agreed to pay $220,000 in restitution. He was sentenced to five years probation.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.