The couple behind a gender reveal party that resulted in a Southern California wildfire that killed a firefighter last year has been charged with involuntary manslaughter, authorities said on Tuesday.
During a press conference, San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson said that Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr. and Angela Renee Jimenez had pleaded not guilty to the charges on Monday, reported The Associated Press.
The El Dorado Fire began on Sept. 5, 2020 after the couple and their family held a gender reveal party at the base of the San Bernardino Mountains at the El Dorado Ranch Park.
Such parties, which are supposed to announce the biological gender of an unborn child, have led to fires, explosions, injuries, and death.
A pyrotechnic device used during the Jimenez event caught the surrounding grass on fire after it was started. The fire grew in the region’s dry conditions — some have connected to the environment to climate change.
Charlie Morton, 39, was killed as flames overran a remote area in the San Bernardino National Forest area. He had worked as a firefighter with the U.S. Forest Service for 18 years. The fire also destroyed five residences and 15 other types of buildings. Several other buildings were damaged. It burned more than 21,000 acres.
After Morton’s death, U.S. Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen said he was “a well-respected leader who was always there for his squad and his crew at the toughest times.”
Thirteen other people were injured.
Besides the involuntary manslaughter charge, the couple was charged with 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 property, according to The Desert Sun.
The couple had been released on their own recognizance until a Sept. 15 court date. Authorities said they had requested the couple be held on $50,000 bail.