Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr. and Angela Renee Jimenez pleaded not guilty on Monday to 30 counts related to the El Dorado fire, which devastated more than 89 square kilometers of land in southern California last fall . The wildfire killed a firefighter, injured two others, destroyed more than a dozen buildings and caused approximately $ 8 million in damage.
Firefighters said the wildfire started with a “smoke-generating pyrotechnic device used at a gender reveal party” in Yucaipa, Calif., September 5, 2020.
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The couple now face counts of manslaughter, three counts of arson with serious injury, four counts of fire of inhabited structures and 22 counts of reckless arson of the property of others. The maximum penalty for these charges is 20 years in prison.
“You are obviously dealing with lives lost, lives injured and people’s homes that have been set on fire and their lands that have been set on fire,” San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson said during a press conference on Tuesday. . “It encompasses a lot of not only emotions, but also damage, both financial and psychological. “
Firefighter Charlie Morton died on September 17, 2020 after being trapped in a forest fire. Morton, 39, was a team leader with the Big Bear Interagency Hotshot Crew, and his job was to venture into the fire to coordinate strategy with the rest of his crew.
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“He wouldn’t have been there if it hadn’t started in the first place,” Anderson said Tuesday. “He’s fighting a fire that was started by a smoke bomb. That’s the only reason he’s here.
The Jimenez pleaded not guilty on Monday and have since been released on bail. Their lawyer declined requests for comment from multiple media.
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Gender reveal parties started in 2008 and have grown more elaborate and dangerous in recent years as parents have sought new ways to announce the sex of their new children. Early stunts involving pink or blue cakes gave way to explosive devices using colored powder and aircraft flyovers using pink or blue smoke, all in an effort to create a stir on social media.
These do-it-yourself stunts have had serious consequences in recent years.
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A gender revealing explosive triggered a minor earthquake earlier this year in New Hampshire, while similar stunts sparked wildfires in Alberta and Arizona. The Arizona case led to the sawmill fire that affected 182 square kilometers and caused $ 8 million in damage – an amount the father was ordered to pay back in monthly installments for the rest of his life .
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A gender-revealing homemade bomb killed an expectant grandmother in Iowa in 2019, and an expectant father died in an explosion earlier this year while building his own device.
Additionally, two people died in a plane crash in Mexico earlier this year during a gender revealing flyby.
Jenna Karvunidis, the blogger who started the trend in 2008, has repeatedly said that she regrets what she started and wishes it would end.
Karvunidis shared one of those calls on September 7, 2020, when ashes from the El Dorado fire fell around his California home.
“I get a lot of hate messages about the gender reveal party that set California on fire,” she said. tweeted. “Could we just stop having these stupid parties and the problem would be solved?” “