A couple have been charged after their gender revealing event allegedly sparked a wildfire in southern California that resulted in the death of a firefighter, the district attorney said on Tuesday.
Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr. and Angela Renee Jimenez have been charged with manslaughter and other charges arising from the El Dorado fire, which broke out in Yucaipa on September 5.
The fire was started by a smoke bomb in El Dorado Ranch Park and exploded in hot, dry conditions, ultimately burning over 22.00 acres. Firefighter Charlie Morton, a top crew chief, died fighting the blaze on September 17.
“He’s fighting a fire that was started by a smoke bomb. That’s the only reason he’s here, ”San Bernardino County Attorney Jason Anderson said at a press conference.
Refugio and Angela Jimenez were arraigned on Tuesday and both have pleaded not guilty, Anderson said. They were released on their own accord.
Online court records did not appear to show their cases as of Tuesday night, and it was unclear whether they had a lawyer. A phone number for them could not be found immediately.
The case went to a criminal grand jury, which made it a bona fide bill on Monday and led to the indictments, Anderson said.
The couple are charged with manslaughter, three counts of arson with serious injuries, four counts of fire of inhabited structures and 22 counts of misdemeanor which relate to the burning of other property. , Anderson said.
Morton, 39, was the boss of the Big Bear Interagency Hotshot team. Hotshot crews can be sent all over the United States to fight forest fires.
The El Dorado fire led to evacuations and destroyed five houses. During the eruption, temperatures in the area were 15 to 20 degrees above normal, firefighters said.
It was part of what California officials have called one of the worst fire seasons in the country’s history. Experts said climate change is exacerbating forest fire conditions and contributing to longer and more intense fire seasons.
The western United States experiences extreme heat and wildfires, including the massive Bootleg Fire in Oregon.
The Bootleg Fire, the largest wildfire in the United States, reached over 388,000 acres – or over 606 square miles – and experienced extreme behavior that forced crews to move to safe areas, officials said. The blaze was 32 percent under control on Tuesday.