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Couple whose 2020 gender reveal party sparked deadly California wildfires charged with involuntary manslaughter

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A smoke bomb set off by the couple in Yucaipa, California, on Sept. 5 as part of a gender reveal, set a fire that burned more than 22,000 acres in two counties, San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson said at a news conference.
A firefighter was killed while fighting the flames and two others were injured, according to Anderson. The fire destroyed several homes and burned more than 22,000 acres, his office said.
Cal Fire determined that the cause of the fire was a “smoke-generating pyrotechnic device.”

The pair both pleaded not guilty during their arraignment on Tuesday. They were released on their own admission until their next scheduled trial date in September, Anderson said.

CNN has contacted an attorney for the couple but has not heard back.

“Obviously you’re dealing with lives lost, you’re dealing with lives injured, and you’re dealing with people’s homes that were burned and their lands burned. That includes a lot, not just emotion, but damage, both financially and psychologically,” Anderson said at the press conference.

The charges were filed after a grand jury heard 34 witness hearings over four days, he said.

Ultimately, 434 exhibits were presented to the grand jury, leading to the indictment unlocked Tuesday, including one felony count of involuntary manslaughter, three felony counts of recklessly causing a fire causing major bodily harm, four felony counts of reckless fire causing inhabited buildings and 22 violations of recklessly setting fire to someone else’s property, Anderson said.

The fire “had a huge impact on the San Bernardino community,” Anderson said, adding that at least six agencies were “involved in managing, extinguishing and investigating” the deadly blaze.

Couple charged with firefighter’s death

Firefighter Charles Morton, a team principal for Big Bear Interagency Hotshot, was fighting the El Dorado Fire when he was killed, CNN previously reported.

The 39-year-old “died while engaged in firefighting operations,” the US Forest Service said in a press release after his death.

Authorities identify firefighter who died in fire caused by gender reveal party
Hotshots are the firefighters on the front line running directly into dangerous fire on steep terrain to strategically plan the best course of action to deal with the flames.

Morton had worked as a firefighter for 18 years, including 14 years with the Forest Service, the release said.

“Charlie was a respected leader who was always there for his team and his crew through the toughest of times,” said US Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen in the release. “Our hearts go out to Charlie’s loved ones, colleagues, friends and the Big Bear Hotshots. We will keep them in our thoughts and prayers.”

Anderson said on Tuesday that part of the reason the investigation and eventual prosecution took so long was because authorities wanted to ensure justice was fully served.

“Given the magnitude and impact of the El Dorado fire on the land and the lives of so many, especially Charles Morton and his family, it was imperative that every investigation be completed within both federal and state agencies to full, honest presentation to the members of our community,” explains Anderson.

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