A Southern California couple whose gender reveal party allegedly sparked last year’s deadly El Dorado wildfire has been charged with 30 crimes, including involuntary manslaughter.
According to CNN, a smoke bomb set off by the couple in Yucaipa, California, on September 5 as part of a gender reveal sparked a fire that went on to burn several homes and more than 22,000 acres across two counties.
During a news conference, San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson said one firefighter was killed while battling the flames and two others were injured.
Cal Fire determined the cause of the fire was a “smoke-generating pyrotechnic device.”
The couple both pleaded not guilty during their arraignments yesterday (July 20) and were released on their own recognizance until their next scheduled court date in September.
“You’re obviously dealing with lost lives, you’re dealing with injured lives, and you’re dealing with people’s residences that were burned and their land that was burned. That encompasses a lot of, not only emotion, but damage, both financially and psychologically,” Anderson said at the news conference.
The charges were filed after a grand jury heard 34 witness interviews over four days. 434 pieces of evidence were presented to the grand jury, leading to the charges that was unsealed yesterday, which includes one felony count of involuntary manslaughter, three felony counts of recklessly causing a fire with great bodily injury, four felony counts of recklessly causing a fire to inhabited structures and 22 misdemeanor counts of recklessly causing fire to property of another.
The fire “had a tremendous impact on the community of San Bernardino,” Anderson said, adding that at least six agencies “were involved in containing, extinguishing and investigating” the deadly blaze.
39-year-old firefighter Charles Morton was battling the El Dorado Fire when he was killed “while engaged in fire suppression operations,” the US Forest Service said in a news release following his death. He was a Big Bear Interagency Hotshot squad boss. Hotshots are the firefighters on the frontlines who walk directly into dangerous fire on steep terrain to strategically plan the best course of action to tackle the flames.
Anderson said that part of the reason the investigation and ultimate prosecution took so long was that authorities wanted to make sure justice was fully served.