Couple Whose 'Gender Reveal' Mishap Allegedly Caused Wildfire Charged with Involuntary Manslaughter

The El Dorado Fire began Sept. 5, with officials determining soon after that a "smoke generating pyrotechnic device" used in a sex reveal party caused it, leading to the death of one firefighter

California Fires
Photo: JOSH EDELSON//Getty Images

A California couple has been charged after their "gender reveal" party malfunction allegedly sparked the El Dorado Fire in September, killing one firefighter.

San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson announced during a press conference Tuesday that Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr. and Angela Renee Jimenez were charged with involuntary manslaughter, as well as three counts of recklessly causing a fire with great bodily injury, four counts of recklessly causing a fire to inhabited structures, and 22 misdemeanors of recklessly causing fire to property, BuzzFeed News reported.

According to the Associated Press, Refugio and Angela pleaded not guilty to the charges.

A spokesperson for the district attorney's did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment. It was not immediately clear whether the Jimenez couple have attorneys to reach for comment.

The El Dorado Fire began on the morning of Sept. 5, with officials determining soon after that a "smoke generating pyrotechnic device" used during a "gender reveal" party was to blame for the blaze. Cal Fire officials reminded residents at the time that "those responsible for starting fires due to negligence or illegal activity can be held financially or criminally responsible."

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A firefighter died battling the El Dorado Fire: 39-year-old Charles Morton, squad boss for the Big Bear Interagency Hotshot Crew of the San Bernardino National Forest, died on Sept. 17. He was a veteran firefighter of 14 years. Among others involved, 13 other injuries were reported as well.

Chief Vicki Christiansen mourned Morton in a statement at the time, saying that he was "tragically killed during efforts to suppress the El Dorado Fire on their home unit. Our hearts go out to Charlie's loved ones, friends, coworkers and the Big Bear Hotshots."

On Nov. 16, San Bernardino National Forest officials announced that the fire was 100 percent contained.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service told the San Bernardino Sun, "We would like to thank the District Attorney's Office and Sheriff's Department for their hard work and diligence in bringing forth charges in this case. Our thoughts are with Charlie's family, friends and colleagues today and always."

In the past year, sex reveal parties have caused deaths in a plane crash and a forest fire, forcing Jenna Karvunidis — who introduced the world to the concept of the "gender reveal party" in 2008 — to denounce them.

"Stop it. Stop having these stupid parties," she wrote on Facebook in September, amid the El Dorado Wildfire. "For the love of God, stop burning things down to tell everyone about your kid's penis. No one cares but you."

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