by Publisher CoachellaValley | July 21, 2021 8:55 pm
SAN BERNARDINO, CA — A couple was charged with involuntary manslaughter Tuesday, nearly 11 months after a smoke bomb used at their gender-reveal party last September sparked the massive, El Dorado wildfire that killed a hotshot firefighter.
Refugio Manuel Jimenerz Jr. and Angela Renee Jimenez pleaded not guilty Tuesday, San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson said in a statement.
Anderson’s office requested $50,000 in bail for each individual, but the court released them on their own recognizance, officials said.
The two were charged with 30 crimes, including 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 of recklessly causing a fire to the property of another, Anderson’s office said.
The couple could face sentences ranging from the years of “lower teens to low twenties,” if found guilty on of all charges, Anderson said at a news conference Tuesday.
The El Dorado fire began Sept. 5, 2020 after the couple and their party staged a gender-reveal ceremony involving a smoke bomb. The pyrotechnic device was set off in parched grasses at El Dorado Ranch Park in Yucaipa.
The fire tore through more than 22,680 acres in the Oak Glen and Yucaipa Ridge region within the San Bernardino National Forest and forced nearby residents to evacuate.
U.S. Forest Service firefighter Charles Morton, 39, died in the blaze. He was a Big Bear Interagency Hotshot Squad Boss. He served for 14 years in the Forest Service.
“Charlie was a well-respected leader who was always there for his squad and his crew at the toughest times,” U.S. Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen said last year.
The blaze also injured two other firefighters, damaged more than a dozen structures and destroyed five homes. The fire, which burned for nearly one month, took at least six agencies to quell.
Tuesday’s indictment was left unresolved an the defendants will return to court on Sept. 15.
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