A gender reveal party went terribly wrong last year when a pyrotechnic device sparked the disastrous El Dorado Fire in Southern California, and the couple responsible has been indicted on involuntary manslaughter charges.
Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr and Angela Renee Jimenez were charged with the death of fire chief Charlie Morton, who died on September 17, 2020 when his squad was overrun by flames while trying to cut fire breaks into a raging blaze.
Sharing our deepest sympathies from Chief Vicki Christiansen:
“Thursday evening we lost one of our own. Charlie Morton, Squad Boss for the Big Bear Interagency Hotshot Crew of the San Bernardino National Forest, was tragically killed during efforts to… (continued) pic.twitter.com/pfzmVkGQ0v
— San Bernardino National Forest (@SanBernardinoNF) September 22, 2020
The fire had erupted twelve days earlier when the Jimenez’s staged a gender reveal with a “smoke generating pyrotechnic device” for their young children at El Dorado Ranch Park, located at the foot of the San Bernardino Mountains.
Though the couple tried to extinguish the flames with water bottles, strong winds stoked the fire, which burned until November 16, 2020, torching more than 22,000 acres and causing over $8 million in damages. Five residential homes and fifteen other buildings were destroyed in the blaze.
“You’re obviously dealing with lost lives, you’re dealing with injured lives, and you’re dealing with people’s residences that were burned and their land that was burned,” said San Bernardino County district attorney Jason Anderson. “That encompasses a lot of, not only emotion, but damage, both financially and psychologically.”
In addition to involuntary manslaughter, the Jimenez’s were charged with more than 30 crimes, including 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 misdemeanor counts of recklessly causing fire to the property of another.
The couple each face up to twenty years in prison if convicted.