Couple whose gender reveal party sparked a US wildfire charged with 30 crimes

A helicopter prepares to drop water on the wildfire sparked by the gender reveal. Credit: AP

A US couple whose gender reveal party sparked a wildfire that killed a firefighter have been charged with 30 crimes, including involuntary manslaughter.

The El Dorado Fire erupted on September 5, when the couple and their young children staged a baby gender reveal at El Dorado Ranch Park in Yucaipa, at the foot of the San Bernardino Mountains.

A smoke-generating pyrotechnic device was set off in a field and quickly ignited dry grass on a scorching day. The couple frantically tried to use bottled water to douse the flames and called 911, authorities said.

A hand crew works a fire break along a ridge during the El Dorado Fire along Highway 38 west of Forest Falls. Credit: AP

Strong winds stoked the fire as it ran through wilderness on national forest land, about 75 miles (120 kilometers) east of Los Angeles. Extremely dry conditions and heat waves tied to climate change have made wildfires harder to fight.

On September 17, flames overran a remote area where firefighters were cutting fire breaks, killing Charles Morton, the 39-year-old leader of the elite Big Bear Interagency Hotshot Squad. Mr Morton had worked as a firefighter for 18 years, mostly with the US Forest Service. The blaze injured 13 other people and forced the evacuations of hundreds of residents in small communities in the San Bernardino National Forest area. It destroyed five homes and 15 other buildings. The blaze blackened nearly 36 square miles (92 square kilometres) of land in San Bernardino and Riverside counties before it was contained on November 16. The fire was one of thousands during a record-breaking wildfire season in California that charred more than four per cent of the state, while destroying nearly 10,500 buildings and killing 33 people.

Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr. and Angela Renee Jimenez pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges including one felony count of involuntary manslaughter, along with other felony and misdemeanor counts related to the fire. The couple were released pending a September 15 court date.

Footage shows the moment a 2017 reveal in Arizona goes wrong

The Jimenez' is among a number of gender reveal parties that have had significant costs. In April 2017, a gender reveal in Arizona sparked a wildfire that caused around £6 million of damage.

In 2019, an Australian man was convicted after a gender reveal stunt left a car engulfed in flames.