The man whose gender reveal party accidentally sparked a massive wildfire in southern California that killed a firefighter has pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. In September 2020, Refugio Jimenez Jr. and Angelina Jimenez gathered their family at El Dorado Ranch Park in Yucaipa for a photo shoot to reveal the gender of their forthcoming baby. To do so they decided to use pyrotechnics on a windy dry day. Sure enough, the smoke bomb went off and quickly ignited the field around it. The family attempted to put out the burgeoning flames with water but failed and the wind quickly spread the fire.
Twelve days later, on September 17, the fire was still raging and took the life of Charles Morton, a wildfire fighter with almost 20 years of experience, when the area where he was cutting fire breaks was overtaken by flames. Jimenez Jr.’s lawyer told the Associated Press that his client prayed for Morton every day since his death and that it has “impacted them profoundly.” On Friday, the San Bernardino District Attorney's Office announced that Jimenez Jr. had pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and two counts of recklessly starting a fire. Angelina Jimenez pleaded guilty to three misdemeanors of recklessly causing a fire. Jimenez Jr. will serve a year in prison and the couple was ordered to pay $1,789,972 in victim restitution. “Resolving the case was never going to be a win,” said District Attorney Jason Anderson in a press release. “The Defendants’ reckless conduct had a tremendous impact on land, properties, emergency response resources, the displacement of entire communities, and resulted in the tragic death of Forest Service Wildland Firefighter Charles Morton.”Gender reveal parties, which have exploded in popularity over the last few years, have been the cause of plenty of chaos, destruction, and even deaths. In September of 2023, a pilot crashed and was killed when he was hired to release red mist to signify a boy at a gender reveal party in Mexico. In Idaho, a grandmother was killed at a gender reveal party after the device they were using to identify the gender exploded and she was hit in the head with a piece of metal as police said the couple inadvertently made a “pipe bomb.” In Michigan a man died after a cannon he was planning on using to reveal the gender of his unborn child exploded while he was working on it. Blogger Jenna Karvunidis is credited with sparking the popularity of gender reveal parties in 2008 but has since denounced what she has wrought onto the world. “Stop it. Stop having these stupid parties,” she wrote on Facebook about Jimenez's fatal photoshoot. “For the love of God, stop burning things down to tell everyone about your kid's penis. No one cares but you.”