The California couple whose gender reveal pyrotechnic show started a massive inferno that killed a fireman last year have each been hit with involuntary manslaughter charges.
Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr. and Angela Renee Jimenez pleaded not guilty to the felony charge and 29 other counts related to the Sept. 2020 El Dorado Fire on Monday, officials said.
The wildfire was allegedly set by the couple’s smoke-generating pyrotechnic device that ignited dry grass at the foot of the San Bernardino Mountains, 75 miles east of LA.
The Jimenez’s tried in vain to put out the blaze with bottled water, but it was quickly stoked by strong winds and dry conditions, authorities said.
The El Dorado Fire, which took more than two months to contain, killed Charles Morton, 39, leader of the elite firefighting Big Bear Interagency Hotshot Squad, and injured 13 others.
The blaze destroyed five homes, and 15 other buildings, led to hundreds of evacuations and ultimately affected some 36 square miles.
The Jimenez’s were released on their own recognizance, despite prosecutors’ request that they each be held on $50,000 bail, and are due back in court at the end of summer, according to The Desert Sun.
In addition to the manslaughter charge, the couple faces 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, the paper said.
The couple faces more than 20 years behind bars if convicted of all counts, according to the report.
The incident was not the first time a gender reveal stunt sparked destructive fires.
Earlier this month, an explosive device set off at a baby welcoming party sparked a wildfire in Canada.
In 2017, an expectant Arizona dad was fined $8 million for setting off an inferno that destroyed nearly 48,000 acres during a gender reveal stunt that was caught on camera.
With AP wires