California couple charged in El Dorado fire sparked by gender reveal

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — A California couple whose gender reveal ceremony sparked last year’s El Dorado wildfire that killed a firefighter has been charged with involuntary manslaughter, authorities said.

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Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr. and Angela Renee Jimenez pleaded not guilty to the charges, San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson said at a news conference on Tuesday.

The charges included a felony count of involuntary manslaughter, three felony counts of recklessly causing a fire with great bodily injury and four felony counts of recklessly causing a fire to inhabited structures, the Desert Sun of Palm Springs reported. The couple also was charged with 22 misdemeanor counts of recklessly causing fire to property, the newspaper reported.

Anderson said the pair were released on their own recognizance, KCBS reported. They are due back in court on Sept. 15.

The El Dorado Fire was ignited on Sept. 5, 2020, when the Jimenezes, their young children and a person recording the event held a baby gender reveal at El Dorado Ranch Park in Yucaipa, the Desert Sun reported.

>> 7,000-acre wildfire caused by gender reveal party, officials determine

Charles Morton, 39, a firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service, died in the blaze, The Sun of San Bernardino reported. Morton was fighting the blaze in the San Gorgonio Wilderness on Sept. 17, 2020, when flames burned over him, the newspaper reported.

Officials with Cal Fire said the El Dorado Fire was sparked by a “smoke generating pyrotechnic device” used during the gender reveal party, CNN reported.

By the time the fire was extinguished on Nov. 16, it had burned 22,680 acres, KCBS reported.

>> Firefighter dies battling blaze sparked by gender reveal party in California

The fire forced the evacuations of five communities, including Oak Glen, north Yucaipa, Mountain Home Village, Forest Falls and Angelus Oaks, the Desert Sun reported.

Strong winds stoked the fire as it ran through the wilderness, located about 75 miles east of Los Angeles, according to The Associated Press.

At the fire’s peak, 1,351 personnel were assigned to the fire, KCBS reported.

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