Man Behind Gender Reveal Wildfire in El Dorado Pleads Guilty

( — The man who accidentally started a massive wildfire in Southern California, which ultimately killed a firefighter, has pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. The El Dorado Fire began in September 2020, after Refugio Jimenez Jr. and his wife, Angelina Jimenez, set up a photo shoot for their expected baby’s “gender reveal.” The couple went to El Dorado Ranch Park for the photo shoot, which used various smoke bombs. The smoke bombs quickly burned the area’s dry grass, causing a massive fire.

The Jimenez family attempted to prevent the fire from spreading and reportedly used water bottles to attempt to fight the flames. The family also contacted 911 after the fire became uncontrollable, but strong winds made the wildfire incredibly powerful before firefighters could take preventative action. Among the firefighters who attempted to prevent the El Dorado Fire from spreading was 39-year-old Charles Morton, who died during the natural disaster.

Morton served as the leader of the Big Bear Interagency Hotshot Squad and spent 18 years as a firefighter before he died on September 17, 2020. Morton regularly worked with the United States Forest Service and died while attempting to cut fire breaks to slow the El Dorado Fire’s spread. After authorities determined the Jimenez family’s guilt in the wildfire, prosecutors charged Refugio Jimenez Jr. with involuntary manslaughter and recklessly causing a fire.

Prosecutors also charged Angelina Jimenez with three misdemeanor charges of recklessly causing fire to the property of someone else. Angelina and Reguio Jimenez Jr. pleaded guilty to the charges against them and must pay $1,789,972 in restitution for their role in starting the El Dorado Fire. Refugio Jimenez Jr. will spend a year in jail and remain on probation for two years. Refuio Jimenez Jr. must also provide 200 hours of community service. Angelina Jimenez will be on probation for a year and must provide 400 hours of community service.

While the couple is responsible for the massive California wildfire, they aren’t the only ones facing legal action due to the massive blaze. The United States Forest Service filed a lawsuit against the manufacturers, sellers, and distributors of smoke bombs, along with the Jimenez family. According to the United States Forest Service, smoke bombs are illegal in California and are known to be dangerous. Thirteen people suffered injuries during the El Dorado Wildfire, and hundreds were evacuated from their homes. The wildfire destroyed 20 buildings, meaning additional lawsuits against the Jimenez family could follow in the coming months.

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