Couple ordered to pay $1.8 million after gender reveal wildfire disaster

gender reveal party wildfire California manslaughter

A couple has been ordered to pay just under $1.8 million in the aftermath of their disastrous gender reveal party that resulted in a devastating wildfire and the death of one person.

Couple Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr and Angela Renee Jiminez made global news back in September 2020 after a firework that went off during their gender reveal party in southern California sparked a huge wildfire that burned through over 22,000 acres of land.

The fire, which destroyed 20 buildings including five homes, and injured 13 people, lasted several months and took 120 fire engines, eight helicopters, and over 1,000 people to put it out.

Among those who had been fighting the blaze was firefighter Charles Morton, who tragically lost his life in the process.

A firefighter has died in the wildfire caused by a gender-reveal party
A wildfire sparked by a gender-reveal disaster in California raged on for months and destroyed 22,000 acres of land. (Screenshot: BBC/YouTube)

Last Friday (9 February), the couple pleaded guilty to several counts in connection to the fire, including involuntary manslaughter, and agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors.

As part of the plea deal, the couple has been ordered to pay $1,789,972 in restitution to the victims of the El Dorado fire.

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Additionally, the couple is facing jail time and community service hours as part of the plea deal.

Refugio Manueal Jiminez Jr pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, as well as two counts of recklessly causing a fire to an inhabited structure, for which he will serve one year in jail, two years of probation, and 200 hours of community service.

Meanwhile, Angela Renee Jiminez pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor counts of recklessly causing a fire to the property of another, for which she will serve one year of probation and 400 hours of community service.

The fire was sparked at a ranch park in Yucaipa, California on 5 September 2020, where the couple had been hosting their party, and had set off a firework for a photo shoot.

A spark from the firework set the surrounding grass on fire, and strong winds meant that the fire spread too quickly to be contained. 

Commenting on this month’s sentencing, District Attorney Jason Anderson said in a statement seen by NBC Los Angeles: “Resolving the case was never going to be a win.

“To the victims who lost so much, including their homes with valuables and memories, we understand those are intangibles that can never be replaced.”

It is just one of a number of horrific stories of gender reveal parties going wrong. 

Other gender-reveal celebrations have resulted in pigeons being dyed bright pink, waterfalls being dyed blue, pregnant women being struck with baseball bats, and in more sobering instances, deadly plane crashes and cannon explosions.

Dangerous and even deadly incidents have become all too common at gender reveal parties – so much so that the woman who first popularised the trend has issued a plea to expecting parents to please stop hosting them.

Beauty blogger Jenna Karvunidis, who is credited with creating the party idea, took to social media in 2020 to try and talk some sense into people.

“Stop having these stupid parties. For the love of God, stop burning things down to tell everyone about your kid’s penis. No one cares but you,” she wrote on Facebook.

“It was 116 degrees in Pasadena yesterday and this tool thought it would be smart to light a fire about his kid’s d**k. Toxic masculinity is men thinking they need to explode something because simply enjoying a baby party is for sissies.”

Karvunidis, who is now the proud mother of a gender non-conforming child, is well aware of the “monster” she has accidentally created, and the harm it can also cause to LGBTQ+ people by reinforcing restrictive gender-based stereotypes.

“Who cares what gender the baby is?” she said. “I [cared] at the time because we didn’t live in 2019 and didn’t know what we know now – that assigning focus on gender at birth leaves out so much of their potential and talents that have nothing to do with what’s between their legs.”

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