<p>Intense flames from a massive forest fire</p>

Intense flames from a massive forest fire

Shutterstock / yelantsevv

A Southern California couple could face up to 20 years in prison after their gender reveal party allegedly sparked a wildfire that killed a firefighter.

On Tuesday, Jason Anderson, a San Bernadino County District Attorney, announced the charges against Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr. and Angela Renee Jimenez— the couple in question— at a press conference.

Officials say that the Jimenezs used a ‘smoke generating pyrotechnic device’ at their celebration that ended up causing a widespread wildfire.

The couple opted to plead not guilty to one felony count of involuntary manslaughter, alongside recklessly causing a fire with bodily harm and other misdemeanor counts pertaining to the fire.

On September 5, 2020, the fire started in El Dorado Park, which is close to Yucaipa, California, before it expanded catastrophically in the dry conditions.

The fire injured two firefighters and killed one named Charles Morton.

It covered over 22,000 acres, injured 13 other people and destroyed homes and other properties.

“Given the scope and impact of the El Dorado fire on the land and lives of so many, particularly Charles Morton and his family, every investigation needed to be completed within both federal and state agencies to provide a full and fair presentation to the members of our community that made up the grand jury,” Anderson explained in a conference.

The San Bernadino National Forest took to their Twitter to provide a statement from the US Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen on Morton’s passing, noting that their “hearts go out to Charlie’s loved ones, friends, coworkers, and the Big Bear Hotshots.”

Heatwaves and arid conditions have made wildfires harder to combat. Climate change has also made much of the West coast of the United States warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to provoke extreme weather and wildfires that can cause destruction.

Additionally, this fire is among the thousands that occurred during the record-breaking wildfire season in California that destroyed more than 4 per cent of the state. Almost 10,500 buildings were destroyed, and 33 people were killed.

The couple have been released on their own recognisance just ahead of their court appearance on September 15 of this year.

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