'Gender Reveal' Party Explosion Sparks 10-Acre Fire in Florida: Report
A “gender reveal” party gone wrong reportedly sparked a 10-acre fire in Florida on Saturday.
The blaze occurred in the Grant-Valkaria region of Brevard County after someone attempting to announce the sex of their unborn child used Tannerite, a brand of binary explosives often used as a rifle target, Brevard County Fire Rescue Chief Mark Schollmeyer told NBC affiliate WESH.
“We were informed that it was caused by a gender reveal using Tannerite and a weapon,” he said. “Something as seemingly innocent as a gender reveal can turn into a large-scale disaster where homes are threatened.”
Schollmeyer urged residents to be careful, as incidents such as the fire are made even worse now as the coronavirus outbreak continues to overwhelm medical resources.
“We want to prevent those wildfires started carelessly by, let’s say, fireworks, camp fires, open trash and burning, bonfires,” he told WESH. “Those kinds of incidents can escalate rapidly. The outdoor equipment utilizing internal combustion like ATVs, lawnmowers and the like, make sure they have a spark arrestor on them.”
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Brevard County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Tod Goodyear tells PEOPLE that a burn ban has been in place since either March 24 or 25, as it automatically goes into effect when the drought index exceeds 500.
The ban prohibits any open burning or fireworks unless approved, and penalties can range from a fine up to $500 and/or up to 60 days in jail.
A spokesperson for the Brevard County Fire Rescue Department did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment, while Goodyear was unable to confirm whether the party host had been charged.
The party took place as the coronavirus outbreak escalates, which has prompted President Donald Trump to issue a federal guidance on social distancing to stop the spread, which he recently extended through April 30.
Then on Wednesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a stay-at-home order for state residents for 30 days, the Sun-Sentinel reported. At the time the party was held, a public health advisory urging people to avoid gatherings of 10 or more people had been issued, though it remains unclear how many people were in attendance.
Florida is also facing a rise in coronavirus cases. As of Thursday afternoon, there were at least 7,765 cases (47 of which were in Brevard County) and 100 deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Florida, the New York Times reported.
The “gender reveal” incident echoes a similar “gender reveal” mishap in Arizona that sparked the Sawmill Fire, which damaged more than 45,000 acres and caused $8 million in damage in April 2017.
That fire occurred after Arizona Border Patrol agent Dennis Dickey shot a “high-velocity firearm” at a target that was supposed to release blue or pink powder during the party for his wife.
He later pled guilty to a misdemeanor federal charge of causing a fire without a permit, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and agreed to pay restitution totaling $8,188,069, though local outlets reported the figure was likely closer to $220,000. He also agreed to a sentence of five years’ probation.
In October, a 56-year-old Iowa woman was killed by debris from an explosion being used as part of a “gender reveal” party.