A couple in the state of California has been charged with involuntary manslaughter after their gender reveal party in the El Dorado Ranch Park sparked the 2020 El Dorado Fire, which resulted in the death of a firefighter and the scorching of more than 22 acres.
San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson announced in a press conference on Monday that the couple, Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr. and Angela Renee Jimenez, had pleaded not guilty to all charges relating to the fire, which first started on September 5th last year, before eventually being extinguished by firefighters on November 16th.
The fire sparked into life on September 5th when the Jimenez family hosted a gender reveal party at the El Dorado Ranch Park in Yucaipa, which sits just below the San Bernardino Mountains.
The couple set off a smoke generator, that revealed the gender of their baby.
However, putting a smoke generator on a dry grass surface in the middle of a scorching day turned out to be a terrible idea.
A combination of the device on the grass with the hot weather led to the spark which caused the fire.
The family drastically attempted to put out the fire by pouring bottles of water on it before they called 911.
High winds allowed the fire to spread out farther, as it went rampant through the national forest land.
This led to the fire scorching close to 36 square miles of land in San Bernardino County and the adjacent Riverside County.
The fire was finally extinguished on November 16th, after over two months of devastation.
The fire resulted in the death of firefighter Charles Morton, who died on September 17th when the blaze ran riot through a small area in which firefighters were attempting to split apart the devastation.
13 other people were injured as a result of the fire, including two other firefighters.
The blaze destroyed five homes, alongside 15 other buildings throughout the county, as hundreds of people were evacuated from the land surrounding the San Bernardino National Forest.
The Jimenez family are now facing one charge of involuntary manslaughter for starting the fire, alongside 22 misdemeanor charges relating to the fire, four felony charges for “recklessly starting a fire to inhabited structures” and three felony charges for “recklessly starting a fire with great bodily harm.”
Prosecutors for the case against the Jimenez family wanted bail to be set at a staggering $50,000, but the couple was released on the promise that they will return to court on September 15th.
According to the Press-Telegram, the couple was indicted by a grand jury and said the indictment was released on Tuesday.
According to the report, the jury had spent 4 days listening to testimonies from 34 separate witnesses, whilst examining 434 submitted pieces of evidence.
The San Bernardino National Forest held a press conference after the charges were announced, thanking the District Attorney’s Office, as well as the Sheriff’s Department for their work on the case.
The fire caused by the Jimenez family was just one of the thousands of fires that tormented California last year, in what is now a record-breaking season for the state.
The fires are believed that have burnt up nearly 4% of all land in the state, with 10,500 buildings destroyed in total, resulting in 33 people tragically losing their lives.