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Criminal Justice

Involuntary Manslaughter Charges For Couple Whose Gender Reveal Party Sparked El Dorado Fire

A thick plume of gray smoke rises from a hilly area.
The Eldorado Fire as viewed from El Dorado Ranch Park.
(Courtesy Zach Behrens, USFS)
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A couple whose gender reveal ceremony sparked the 22,000-acre El Dorado Fire that killed a veteran firefighter have been charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr. and Angela Renee Jimenez pleaded not guilty to charges related to the fire. The El Dorado Fire broke out last September after investigators say the two set off a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device at a park in Yucaipa.

Charles Morton, 39, was killed while battling the fire. Morton was a 14-year veteran of the U.S. Forest Service. Two other firefighters were injured, and the flames destroyed five homes and 15 other structures.

A poster board on an easel has a photograph of Charles Morton in a firefighters helmet. He has a beard and is seen in profile. The poster reads: "In Memory of Squad Boss Charles "Charlie" Morton.
Big Bear Interagency Hotshot Charles Morton was killed battling the El Dorado wildfire in 2020. The couple responsible for sparking the fire is now facing involuntary manslaughter charges.
(Mario Tama
/
Getty Images)
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It also forced thousands of people to leave their homes under mandatory evacuation orders. At the fire's peak, officials said more than 1,300 people were working to contain the fire and keep people safe.

San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson announced the charges Tuesday. The couple faces 22 misdemeanors, and eight felony counts.
"The conditions that were created that led to the firefighter's death were a direct result of the fire in the first place," Anderson said at news conference Tuesday night.

"I mean he's fighting a fire that was started because of a smoke bomb. That's the only reason he's there."

The couple was released without bail. Their next court date is September 15th.

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