RIVERSIDE COUNTY, CA – A California couple who set off an exploding package filled with blue powder to reveal the gender of their child last year – which subsequently caused a gigantic wildfire that ultimately took the life of a firefighter in addition to injuring 13 others – are now facing involuntary manslaughter charges.
Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr. and Angela Renee Jimenez had set off a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device in El Dorado in September 2020 that immediately ignited dry grass at the foot of the San Bernardino Mountains. The couple attempted to uselessly douse the quickly-growing inferno with bottled water, but the blaze grew out of control and spread due to winds and dry conditions, reports say.
The El Dorado Fire, as it was dubbed, continued for over two months and affected 36 square miles of land before it was finally put out. In the process of fighting the out-of-control wildfire, Charles Morton, 39, the leader of the Big Bear Interagency Hotshot Squad – an elite group of firefighters – died, and 13 more people were injured. In addition, five houses and 15 buildings were destroyed, and hundreds were forced to evacuate their homes.
On Monday, Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr. and Angela Renee Jimenez pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter – which is a felony – as well as 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.
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If convicted on all counts, the couple faces up to 20 years in prison.
The Jimenezes were released on their own recognizance, and are due back in court at the end of summer.