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california fires

Couple whose gender reveal party sparked California fire charged with involuntary manslaughter

A Southern California husband and wife who used a pyrotechnic device during a gender reveal party last September, sparking the El Dorado Fire that killed a firefighter, have been charged with involuntary manslaughter, authorities said Tuesday.

Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr. and Angela Renee Jimenez pleaded not guilty on Monday to one felony count of involuntary manslaughter and felony and misdemeanor counts related to the fire, The Associated Press reports. They were released on their own recognizance.

On Sept. 5, the couple held a gender reveal at the El Dorado Ranch Park in Yucaipa. The temperature soared above 100 degrees that day, and there were strong winds. After they set off a pyrotechnic device in a field, a spark landed on the dry grass, and flames quickly spread. The family threw bottled water at the brush and called 911, but the fire was already out of control.

While fighting the El Dorado Fire, Charles Morton, 39, was killed on Sept. 17 when flames overran the area where he was cutting fire breaks with his crew, the Big Bear Interagency Hotshot Squad. The fire scorched national forest land, injured 13 people, forced hundreds of evacuations, and destroyed five houses and 15 buildings.