A California couple who sparked a massive wildfire after a gender reveal gone wrong last year is now charged with involuntary manslaughter, authorities said.
On the morning of Sept. 5, 2020, Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr. and Angela Renee Jimenez gathered loved ones together at El Dorado Ranch Park in Yucaipa to reveal if they were expecting a girl or a boy.
When the couple and their children set off a smoke bomb, the device lit on fire nearby dry grass, according to authorities.
Because of the hot temperatures and windy conditions, Cal Fire said, the blaze quickly spread and grew out of control and burned through 22,000 acres of forest, wilderness and land in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties.
Veteran firefighter Charles Morton, 39, died battling the El Dorado Fire that injured 13 others.
“Obviously, he wouldn’t have been out there if this hadn’t started in the first place,” San Bernardino County’s district attorney Jason Anderson said of Morton at a July 20 news conference. “He’s fighting a fire that was started because of a smoke bomb. That’s the only reason he’s there.”
Besides the involuntary manslaughter charges, the Jimenezes also face 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, Anderson said.
The couple pleaded not guilty to all charges against them and were released without bail. If convicted, they could face up to over 20 years in prison.