A Southern California couple were charged Tuesday for allegedly setting off a smoke bomb for a gender reveal that caused a wildfire, killing a firefighter and burning more than 22,000 acres.
San Bernardino Count 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.
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, pled guilty and agreed to pay $220,000 in restitution. He was sentenced to five years probation.