A fire sparked by a pyrotechnic device used during a gender reveal party has grown to nearly 10,000 acres since Saturday.
The El Dorado fire in Southern California’s San Bernardino County has scorched 9,671 acres and was only 7% contained as of late Monday night, according to fire officials, who say it’s “one of the most dangerous fires” they’ve seen in the area.
The fire was caused by a “smoke-generating pyrotechnic device” used at a party on Saturday morning in El Dorado Ranch Park in Yucaipa, about 70 miles east of Los Angeles, Cal Fire investigators determined. it’s not the only gender reveal to start a fire or to cause other mayhem.
Evacuations have been ordered in the area as homes have been threatened. More than 75 large wildfires are burning across the United States, with California hits hardest.
“In my 30 years as a citizen in Yucaipa, I have never seen such a large fire,” Yucaipa Mayor David Avila said during a Monday News conference. “As a retired firefighter with 32 years of experience, I can assure you I witnessed one of the most dangerous fires that we can have in this area.”
No injuries have been reported and no structures have been damaged in the blaze,Cal Fire spokeswoman Cathey Mattingly said.
“The hard work of crews on the ground, dozers and aircraft have enabled a lot of great work to be accomplished as fire lines continue to be constructed around the fire in preparation for the upcoming Red Flag Santa Ana Wind event starting at noon tomorrow and lasting through Wednesday,” they added.
Surveillance video reviewed by investigators showed a couple with several children walking into the grass while another person appears to light a device, CalFire investigator Capt. Bennet Milloy told CNN Monday. After it ignites, the family is seen scrambling and grabbing water bottles to try to douse the growing fire. Everyone involved has cooperated with investigators, Milloy said.
Fire officials have refused to release the video to CNN, saying the investigation is ongoing. Fire investigators have identified at least three laws that were violated, including “igniting the land” and arson. The level of recklessness will determine whether those are filed as misdemeanors or felonies. Penalties would vary.
If the district attorney pursues the case, the person who ignited the pyrotechnic would be the person charged, Milloy explained.
“It really is a tragedy, it’s sad. They were hoping to remember the day in a different way,” Milloy said, adding that over 80% of fires are caused by humans and that people must be more aware of their surroundings. “You need to be extra cautious because you could be liable.”
Fire officials say the family that used a pyrotechnic device during a “gender reveal” — which they say sparked the El Dorado Fire burning near Yucaipa— tried to extinguish the blaze themselves, then called 911 and remained on scene until firefighters arrived.
The family has “absolutely been cooperating” with officials, Cal Fire Capt. Bennet Milloy told The Desert Sun on Monday.
No arrests have been made in the ongoing investigation and it will be up to the district attorney whether any charges will be filed, he said. Possible charges also depend on whether any homes are lost or injuries sustained, Milloy said. So far, there have been no reports of either.
“Those responsible for starting fires due to negligence or illegal activity can be held financially responsible and criminally responsible,” Cal Fire officials stated in a press release on Sunday.
Milloy said the mechanism used in the reveal is being tested to determine if it is considered as “safe and sane” firework. In Yucaipa, safe and sane fireworks are illegal, Milloy said.
He also clarified that the gender reveal was not a “party” as officials had said earlier, but just the immediate family gathering at El Dorado Ranch Park in Yucaipa for a “selfie” as the device discharged to reveal the gender of the baby the couple is expecting.