Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr. and Angela Renee Jimenez have been charged with involuntary manslaughter along with 29 other counts for starting a massive wildfire during gender reveal party in Yucaipa, California in September 2020. The fire had killed a firefighter in Southern California.
The couple is facing a felony count of involuntary manslaughter, three felony counts of recklessly causing a fire with great bodily injury and four felony counts of recklessly causing a fire to inhabited structures. The couple is also facing 22 counts of misdemeanor on charges of recklessly causing fire to property.
Couple Pleads Not Guilty
The couple has pleaded not guilty to the felony and other charges. The couple was released on their own recognizance, despite prosecutors' request that they each be held on $50,000 bail. Next hearing will be held at the end of summer. Reports stated that the couple is likely to get more than 20 years of jail term if convicted of all counts.
Reports had claimed that the fire was ignited by the couple's smoke-generating pyrotechnic device at the foot of the San Bernardino Mountains, situated 75 miles east of Los Angeles. The fire was ignited on Sept. 5, 2020, in the gender reveal party organized by the couple where their young children and a person recording the event were present. Reports claim that Jimenez and his wife tried to stop the fire with bottled water! But wind was strong and fire quickly spread across the forest. When the fire was at its peak, 1.351 firefighters were assigned to douse it.
Death and Destruction
Charles Morton, 39, leader of the firefighting Big Bear Interagency Hotshot Squad lost his life on Sept. 17, 2020. At least 13 people were severely injured. After sloughing for 73 days, the fire was extinguished on Nov. 16, 2020. But by then 22,680 acres of the forest had been gutted.
Apart from causing the death of a firefighter, the rapid spread of fire also had forced the evacuation of people residing and working in Oak Glen, north Yucaipa, Mountain Home Village, Forest Falls and Angelus Oaks. At least five homes and 15 buildings were destroyed in the fire.
When the incident occurred, California Governor Gavin Newsom had declared emergency in San Bernardino County. When the situation turned dire, Newsom had declared a state-wide emergency across California.