A happy family affair turned out to be tragic as the hosts could face arson charges, millions of fines, and a future in prison.
According to fire investigators, a family held a small gathering for the gender reveal party on Saturday, September 5. A smoke-generating pyrotechnic device is usually used to release blue or pink smoke to announce the gender of an expected baby.
However, such event led to a wildfire that has destroyed at least 7,050 acres of land in California, located 40 miles northeast of Palm Springs. Now, the host family is facing arson raps and risks of imprisonment and multi-million dollar fines to cover the cost of putting out the fire.
The fire started at 10:23 a.m. with 527 people from 10 fire crews trying to halt the fire that spread from the El Dorado Ranch Park north to the Yucaipa Ridge, which splits Mountain Home Village and Forest Falls from the Yucaipa city.
California Fire Department spokesman Bennet Milloy confirmed to DailyMail.com that the party hosts were still on the scene when they arrived.
"We know how it started because they were still there," Milloy said adding that there were surveillance cameras in the park that could verify what happened.
Milloy said that the relatives gathered for a photo opportunity, although he cannot confirm if they were locals. Regardless, the host family could face civil and criminal charges for starting the fire, leading to imprisonment and huge penalty.
The civil raps include 'suppression costs' for the entire cost of putting the fire out, which could amount to millions of dollars. The charges include the cost of the whole operation including planes, engines, helicopters, and fire fighters.
Meanwhile, criminal charges could be hit with arson and violations of public resources codes, which would be worse if homes were destroyed. Under California's penal code section 452, those convicted with arson can lead to nine years sentence.
Milloy added that the family "understood the seriousness of the fire," although they thought it was just an accident.
View this post on InstagramCAL FIRE Aircraft play a critical roll in our firefighting capabilities. This combined with firefighter efforts, we continue to work the #ValleyFire. #CALFIRE #Aircraft #S2T #Firefighting Video courtesy of Jeff Hall @jeffhall.ishootfire A post shared by CAL FIRE Official Instagram (@calfire) on Sep 6, 2020 at 11:56am PDT
Evacuation warning raised under critical fire weather
Aside from the wide range of raged bushes, no other damage was reported, although about 30 homes were put at risk.
Currently, there is an Evacuation Warning in across the Yucaipa bench area while communities in Oak Glen, Yucaipa Ridge, Mountain Home Village and Forest Falls were ordered to evacuate to Yucaipa Community Center as a temporary evacuation facility.
Fire fighters used 60 fire engines and four helicopters to water the blaze. The El Dorado Fire is just two miles away from the Apple Fire that ruined 33,000 acres in August.
Meanwhile, a press statement was released by CAL FIRE to remind the public that is much easy to start a fire amid the dry conditions and critical fire weather.
"Those responsible for starting fires due to negligence or illegal activity can be held financially responsible and criminally responsible," the statement edited.
On September 6, California governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in five counties due to the El Dorado Fire, which remains "extremely active" due to steep terrain, dry vegetation, and sweltering hot weather in the region.
Southern California is suffering a heatwave as temperatures near Yucaipa are predicted to exceed 110 degrees while Palm Springs peaked at 122 degrees on September 5. The fire department is now battling 23 major wildfire.
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Written by CJ Robles