By Cassie Larson and Joseph Shepard
SAN BERNARDINO, CA – A couple identified by prosecutors as “the Jimenez family” has been charged with involuntary manslaughter following the death of Charles Morton, a firefighter who was tasked with the containment of the wildfire that was sparked from their gender reveal party held near here last year.
On last Sept. 5, the couple held a gender reveal party at El Dorado Ranch Park, located at the base of the San Bernardino Mountains. The couple set a “smoke-generating device” down in one of the surrounding fields which quickly resulted in the brittle grass to become inflamed.
Although the couple tried to contain the fire themselves, the water bottles used were insufficient as the flames continued to be spread by strong winds.
The firefighter killed in this incident was 39 year-old Charles Morton, leader of the Big Bear Interagency Hotshot Squad. Morton’s death occurred when flames rapidly overtook the area in which firefighters were using the technique known as “cutting fire breaks” in the hopes of slowing the wildfire’s destruction.
The fire, which was finally contained after more than two months in mid-November, burned a total of approximately 35 square miles, forced hundreds to evacuate, destroyed five homes and injured another 13 people.
The couple face eight felony counts total, including three for “recklessly causing a fire with great bodily injury,” and four for causing damage to inhabited structures. On top of that, they were also charged with 22 misdemeanor counts for other damage the fire caused.
The couple pleaded not guilty to the charges, according to San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson. The couple’s next court date is scheduled for Sept. 15.