The couple whose gender reveal party caused a massive fire in El Dorado, California, back in 2020 has reached a plea agreement.
On September 5, 2020, Refugio Jimenez Jr. and his wife, Angelina, set off a smoke bomb as part of the couple’s gender reveal party at the El Dorado Ranch Park in southern San Bernardino County. When the smoke bomb went off, it set fire to some dry grass, which spread quickly. The couple tried to put out the fire with bottled water, but when that failed, they called authorities to alert them to the situation.
The couple cooperated with the investigation into the fire, which burned nearly 23,000 acres between September 5 and November 16, 2020, and destroyed 20 structures, including homes. The fire also took the life of U.S. Forest Service wildland firefighter Charles Morton and injured two more firefighters, along with 13 other people.
The Jimenezes were charged on July 20, 2021, with involuntary manslaughter and other felony and misdemeanor charges relating to the fire. They initially pleaded not guilty and sought dismissal of the charges, but the courts denied their attempts on two separate occasions.
On February 9, 2024, Refugio pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter and two counts of recklessly causing a fire to an inhabited structure. He was sentenced to one year in county jail, two years of probation, and 200 hours of community service, the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office said in a press release.
Angelina pled guilty to three misdemeanor counts of recklessly causing fire to property of another and was sentenced to one year summary probation and 400 hours of community service.
In addition, the couple was ordered to pay $1,789,972 to the victims of the fire.
“Resolving the case was never going to be a win,” District Attorney Jason Anderson said in the press release. “The Defendants’ reckless conduct had 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. All these factors were given an extraordinary amount of consideration throughout every step of investigation, the Grand Jury process, and court proceedings.”
“To the victims who lost so much, including their homes with valuables and memories, we understand those are intangibles can never be replaced.” Anderson added, “Our hope with this resolution is that it closes a painful chapter in your lives, and the restitution provides a measure of assistance in becoming whole again.”
Refugio will report to jail on February 23.