Couple charged over deadly California wildfire sparked by gender reveal party

A couple whose gender reveal party sparked a Southern California wildfire last year has been charged with involuntary manslaughter for the death of a firefighter who died while fighting the blaze.

San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson announced during a press conference Tuesday afternoon that the defendants, who he identified as the Jimenez family, pleaded not guilty the previous day.

The fire in question broke out on Sept. 5 when the couple held a gender reveal at the foot of the San Bernardino Mountains at El Dorado Ranch Park. A smoke-generating device that the couple had placed in a field quickly caused the surrounding dry grass to catch on fire.


The couple attempted to put out the fire with water bottles, but strong winds caused the fire to spread through national forests about 75 miles east of Los Angeles.

Charles Morton, 39, leader of the Big Bear Interagency Hotshot Squad, was killed on Sept. 17 when flames overran a remote area where firefighters were cutting fire breaks, or gaps in vegetation or other combustible materials meant to slow the spread of fires. 

The couple currently faces one felony count of involuntary manslaughter, three felony counts of recklessly causing a fire with great bodily injury, four counts of recklessly causing a fire to inhabited structures and 22 misdemeanor counts of recklessly causing fire to property.

The fire burned about 35 square miles of land before being contained in mid-November. Hundreds of people were forced to evacuate, 13 people were injured and five homes were destroyed.

The couple is scheduled to return to court Sept. 15.