San Bernardino County Sun, Calif.
Jul. 21—Two people have been indicted on multiple charges, including involuntary manslaughter, in connection with a pyrotechnic gender-reveal photo shoot that went awry and sparked last year’s deadly 22,680-acre El Dorado wildfire in San Bernardino County, the county’s top prosecutor said Tuesday.
District Attorney Jason Anderson announced the charges at a news conference after a grand jury heard four days of testimony and returned 30 counts against the pair.
Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr. and Angela Renee Jimenez, the couple allegedly behind the gender-reveal event that involved a pyrotechnic device, were charged with one 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 22 misdemeanor counts, Anderson said.
Among the victims of the fire was USFS hotshot firefighter Charles Morton, who perished in the blaze. Thirteen other firefighters were injured the blaze.
Anderson said he reviewed reports from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and U.S. Forest Service before deciding to hold the couple responsible for Morton’s death.
“The conditions that were created that led to the firefighter death were a direct result of the fire,” Anderson said.
The El Dorado fire started Sept. 5 at El Dorado Ranch Park when sparks from a pyrotechnic device used to generate smoke during a gender-reveal photo shoot ignited dry brush on an unseasonably warm day, Cal Fire’s San Bernardino Unit said.
Morton, a USFS hotshot crew boss, died fighting the fire in the San Gorgonio Wilderness on Sept. 17 when flames burned over him. More detailed circumstances of his death have not been made public. USFS death investigations typically take many months before a comprehensive report is released.
The fire burned 22,680 acres, destroyed five homes and damaged four others in addition to the human toll it took.
Mountain Home Village, Forest Falls, Angelus Oaks, Seven Oaks and Barton Flats were among the communities evacuated.
The length of time it took the DA’s Office to reach a decision on filing charges frustrated some members of the public, including some who wondered whether there was a motivation behind what they considered a delay. In January, the DA’s Office, in a blog post, said investigators expected to make a filing decision “no later than March 1.”
Anderson said in a video posted on Feb. 24 said his office was still reviewing reports from four agencies and that a fifth was coming in.
“The right thing to do is not always on a strict timetable,” Anderson said in the video.
(c)2021 the San Bernardino County Sun (San Bernardino, Calif.)
Visit the San Bernardino County Sun (San Bernardino, Calif.) at www.sbsun.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.