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Couple charged after ‘gender reveal party sparked wildfire and killed firefighter’

A couple from California have been charged after their gender reveal party allegedly sparked a huge wildfire that killed a firefighter.

The El Dorado blaze spread for 75 miles, destroying five homes, injuring 13 people and claiming the life of 14-year veteran firefighter Charlie Morton.

Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr, 41, and Angela Renee Jimenez, 29, have now been indicted for 30 crimes, including involuntary manslaughter. They face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.

The couple, who have denied the charges, allegedly used a pyrotechnic during the gender reveal on September 5 last year at El Dorado Ranch Park in Yucaipa.

Authorities said a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device was set off in a field and quickly ignited dry grass on a scorching day and the couple frantically tried to use bottled water to douse the flames before calling 911.

The fire burned for more than two months and covered more than 22,000 acres.

Jason Anderson, the San Bernardino county district attorney, said the charges include three felony counts of recklessly causing a fire with great bodily injury.

MOUNTAIN HOME VILLAGE, CALIFORNIA - September 9: A group of inmate firefighter watch as the El Dorado Fire burns a hillside near homes in Mountain Home Village, California, inside the San Bernardino National Forest, September 9, 2020. (Photo by Kyle Grillot for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
A group of inmate firefighter watch as the El Dorado Fire burns a hillside (Picture: Getty)

They are also charged with four felony counts of recklessly causing a fire to inhabited structures and 22 misdemeanour counts of recklessly causing a fire to property of another.

He told a press conference: ‘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.

‘That encompasses a lot of, not only emotion, but damage, both financially and psychologically.’

Mr Morton, 39, was a part of a team of firefighters which are deployed across the US to help tackle wildfires.

Charles Morton, 39, died on September 17 while battling the El Dorado Fire in San Bernardino National Forest
Charles Morton, 39, died on September 17
TOPSHOT - A firefighter works the scene as flames push towards homes during the Creek fire in the Cascadel Woods area of unincorporated Madera County, California on September 7, 2020. - A firework at a gender reveal party triggered a wildfire in southern California that has destroyed 7,000 acres (2,800 hectares) and forced many residents to flee their homes, the fire department said Sunday. More than 500 firefighters and four helicopters were battling the El Dorado blaze east of San Bernardino, which started Saturday morning, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)
The blaze took more than two months to put out (Picture: AP)

‘He’s fighting a fire that was started because of a smoke bomb, that’s the only reason he’s there,’ Mr Anderson said.

The pair are due to appear in court on September 15.

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