California Couple Looking at Manslaughter Charge After Gender Reveal Leads to Fatal Wildfire

by Anna Dunn

A California couple whose gender reveal party lead to a catastrophic wildfire is facing manslaughter charges in the death of a firefighter. The gender reveal party had a planned pyrotechnic show in the wildfire-prone California desert. It was the catalyst to the El Dorado Fire.

The region’s infamously strong winds stoked the fire in September 2020. The wildfire was also aided by the region’s incredibly dry climate. It tore through National Forest land about 75 miles away from Los Angeles. It began at the foot of the San Bernardino Mountains, at the El Dorado Ranch in Yucaipa.

Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr. and Angela Renee pleaded not guilty, per the NY Post. This is not only to the felony charge against them but 29 other counts. The couple ignited a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device in dry grass. While they tried to put out the initial flames with bottled water, the wildfire proved too strong. While prosecutors wanted the couple held on $50,000 bail, the judge released them.

Tragically, Charles Morton, a 39-year-old firefighter, passed away in the wildfire. Morton was the leader of an elite Big Bear hot-shot squad. The fire also caused injuries to thirteen other people. The blaze destroyed five homes and fifteen buildings. It damaged around 22,744 acres of land and took two months to fully put out.

The couple is due back in court at the end of the summer. On top of the manslaughter charge, they face a litany of other felony and misdemeanor charges. They face four felony counts of recklessly causing a fire to inhabited structures, three felony counts of recklessly causing a fire with great bodily injury, and 22 misdemeanor counts of recklessly causing fire to property.

This isn’t the First Time A Gender Reveal Party Caused a Wildfire

Believe it or not, the newer phenomenon of gender reveal parties, where an expecting couple hosts an event that celebrates the assigned gender of their child, has resulted in multiple casualties and disasters. Sociologists have yet to properly study why these parties have become so dangerous. Many think they’ve gotten more extreme as years have gone on.

Earlier this month, a similar baby welcoming party caused a wildfire in Canada.

Gender reveal parties have become dangerous even outside of fires. According to Vox, they’ve resulted in a fatal car crash, a deadly explosion, multiple deaths, and party attendees severely burned by fireworks. The woman who started the trend has begged people to stop the parties or at least make them safer.

Now, a couple whose party started the El Dorado Fire is facing the consequences of what many view as recklessness. California is a very fire-prone state, and the couple faces up to 20 years behind bars if convicted of all counts.