California Couple Whose Gender Reveal Fireworks Sparked Wildand Fire, Indicted for Manslaughter

A grand jury in San Bernardino has indicted a couple for involuntary manslaughter for their role in sparking a wildland fire that claimed the life of a firefighter last year. Refugio Manuel Jimenez, Jr. and Angelina Renee Jimenez were indicted on July 19, 2021 on 30 counts related to the El Dorado Fire in September 2020.

The fire claimed the life of US. Forest Service Wildland Firefighter Charles Morton. It burned 22,680 acres over a 23-day period and at one point had 1,351 personnel assigned (17 hand crews, 177 engines, 20 water tenders, 17 dozers, and 10 helicopters). 

On September 5, 2020, the couple was using a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device as part of a baby gender reveal at El Dorado Ranch Park in Yucaipa during an extreme fire danger period. The device ignited dry grass and quickly spread from there.

A press release from San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson stated:

  • Pursuant to the Grand Jury findings, an indictment has been filed against Mr. and Mrs. Jimenez for the following charges: one felony count of involuntary manslaughter, three felony counts of recklessly causing a fire with great bodily injury, four felony counts of recklessly causing a fire to inhabited structures, and twenty-two misdemeanor counts of recklessly causing a fire to property of another.
  • Today the indictment was unsealed, the defendants were arraigned, entered pleas of not guilty and will return to court on 9/15/21.
  • Although the District Attorney’s Office requested $50,000 bail for each defendant, the Court released them on their own recognizance.

More on the indictment.

Here is a copy of the press release:

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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