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Couple charged with manslaughter in Southern California fire sparked by gender reveal

PALM SPRING, Calif .– The couple who used a smoke bomb at a gender reveal ceremony and started the El Dorado forest fire in Southern California that killed a firefighter last year have been charged with manslaughter and 29 other crimes, authorities said on Tuesday.

Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr. and Angela Renee Jimenez pleaded not guilty on Tuesday, San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson told a press conference.

A judge released them on their own recognizance despite prosecutors’ request that they each be held on $ 50,000 bail, Anderson said.

The counts included one count of manslaughter, three counts of recklessly causing a fire with grievous bodily harm, four counts of reckless burning of inhabited structures and 22 counts. charge of recklessly arson of property.

Anderson said on Tuesday the couple could face sentences ranging from “their teenage years to their twenties” if found guilty on all counts.

Charlie Morton, a 14-year veteran hotshot firefighter from the San Bernardino National Forest, died fighting the blaze. The fire also left 13 people injured.

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When asked how prosecutors would argue the couple’s actions were responsible for Morton’s death, Anderson said the firefighter “was fighting a fire that was started because of a smoke bomb.”

“That’s the only reason he was there,” he added.

The El Dorado fire erupted on September 5 when the couple and their young children staged a baby gender reveal at El Dorado Ranch Park in Yucaipa, at the foot of the San Bernardino Mountains.

A Cal Fire official told Desert Sun, part of the USA TODAY Network, on September 7, that the family had “absolutely cooperated” with those responsible.

Over a 23-day period, the fire burned 22,680 acres in the Oak Glen and Yucaipa Ridge areas, as well as the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area of ​​the San Bernardino National Forest.

The blaze forced evacuations and destroyed five residences and 15 other structures, and damaged four residences.

After Morton’s death, US Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen called him a “much respected leader who was always there for his team and his team through the toughest times.”

A hotshot team is a group of around 20 firefighters who respond to large forest fires across the country and are assigned to the most difficult parts of the blaze.

Morton had worked for the Forest Service for 14 years, joining the San Bernardino team in 2007. He worked in both the Front Country and Mountaintop Ranger districts, for the Mill Creek Interagency Hotshots, Engine 31, Engine 19 and Big Bear Interagency. Fire.

According to the statement, Morton’s family asked the ministry to share that he is survived by his wife and daughter, parents, two brothers, cousins ​​and friends. “He is loved and will be missed,” the statement added.

Contribute: The Associated Press.

This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Couple Charged in Southern California Fire Triggered by Gender Disclosure

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