California wildfire started because of pyrotechnics at gender reveal gathering: CalFire

A wildfire burning in San Bernardino County was started by a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device at a gender reveal gathering in a situation where Cal Fire is now compiling a case to forward to the District Attorney for possible prosecution. 

The El Dorado Fire, burning near Oak Glen, began at 10:23 a.m. on Saturday in the El Dorado Ranch Park in Yucaipa.

The fire spread from the park to the north on to Yucaipa Ridge that separates Mountain Home Village and Forest Falls from the City of Yucaipa.

As of Monday morning, the fire had burned more than 11 square miles and was 5% contained. Hundreds of people were evacuated. 

Cal Fire Capt. Bennett Milloy told KTVU that the couple went to a grassy field at El Dorado Ranch Park, which is a popular spot for fall photos, to announce the gender of their baby. They were accompanied by their young children and had a friend or relative videoing on a cell phone. 

They brought some type of six-inch cylindrical device to send up either pink or blue smoke, and reveal the sex of the fetus, he said. But the grasses are four-feet tall and temperatures were in the triple digits on Sunday, he said. The spectacle created a fire, which the couple tried to douse with their own water bottles, he said.

But despite their cooperation, their suppression efforts didn't work, Milloy said. 

There are surveillance photos of the fire, including the color of the smoke the pyrotechnic device emitted, but Milloy said he would not share that now; the evidence will have to be made public if the DA decides to charge whoever set off the smoke device.

Charges could include setting a fire and reckless behavior at this point, Milloy said.

Cal Fire decided to highlight this case as a warning to others who might want to host a similar event.

"Be careful," Milloy said. "It's best not to set off pyrotechnics in fire season." 

This is not the first gender reveal pyrotechnic party that has gone awry. 

In 2017, a massive Arizona wildfire was accidentally started by an off-duty Border Patrol agent who shot a target filled with an explosive blue powder. The fire burned 47,000 acres and caused $8 million in damages, Agent Dennis Dickey was charged with a misdemeanor and sentenced to probation.

Last year, a homemade explosive used to reveal a baby’s gender killed 56-year-old Pamela Kreimeyer in Knoxville, Iowa. The device was meant to spray powder but instead blew up like a pipe bomb. Kreimeyer, who was standing 45 feet away, died instantly when debris struck her head.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.