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Gender reveal party couple face jail over deadly California wildfire

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Firefighters watch as the El Dorado blaze burns a hillside near homes in Mountain Home Village, California, inside the San Bernardino National Forest, 9 September 2020

A US couple whose gender reveal party last year was blamed for starting a deadly California wildfire face up to 20 years in prison, officials say.

Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr and Angela Renee Jimenez have been charged with several offences, including involuntary manslaughter, over the El Dorado fire.

Officials say a smoke bomb used at the gender event last September sparked the blaze, in which one firefighter was killed and others were hurt.

The couple have pleaded not guilty.

The El Dorado fire lasted more than two months and covered over 22,000 acres of southern California, destroying homes and other properties.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as Cal Fire, alleged that a “smoke-generating pyrotechnic device” used during a gender reveal party in the city of Yucaipa on 5 September was the cause of the blaze.

The wildfire was eventually extinguished on 16 November.

Firefighter Charles Morton was killed tackling the blaze and several other firefighters were seriously injured.

On Tuesday, San Bernardino County officials said the couple who organised the gender reveal party had been charged with involuntary manslaughter and for recklessly causing a fire resulting in injury and damage to homes.

They face prison sentences “extending” up to 20 years if found guilty on all charges, prosecutors said.

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

Gender reveal parties are celebrations announcing whether expecting parents are going to have a girl or a boy.

They can include prediction games, with the “big reveal” being made with fireworks and coloured smoke grenades.

In recent years, several large-scale parties have gone wrong.

In February, father-to-be Christopher Pekny, 28, died after a device he was building for his child’s gender reveal party reportedly exploded.

The US is currently battling a huge wildfire in state of Oregon that has already scorched an area larger than the city of Los Angeles, prompting thousands of evacuations.

Source: BBC

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