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A Gender-Reveal Party Started a Wildfire That Burned Nearly 10,000 Acres

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A Gender-Reveal Party Started a Wildfire That Burned Nearly 10,000 Acres
Fireworks at a gender-reveal party triggered a wildfire in southern California that has destroyed 7,000 acres and forced many residents to flee their homes. JOSH EDELSON / AFP via Getty Images

A couple hosting a gender-reveal party on Saturday set off a smoke bomb to reveal the baby's gender when the device lit the nearby dry grass and sent partygoers scrambling. That mishap has now led to the El Dorado wildfire in Southern California's San Bernardino County, according to The Washington Post.


According to a statement from CalFire, the fire started in El Dorado Ranch Park, about 80 miles east of Los Angeles. On Monday, official said that it had burned 9,671 acres and was only 7 percent contained, according CNN. Officials added that it's "one of the most dangerous fires" they've seen in the area.

The family and partygoers tried in vain to put out the fire with water bottles, but the rapid spread in the four-foot tall dry grass was too much for the small amount of water they had. The family did call 911 to report the fire and shared photographs with investigators, according to The New York Times.

"I can't speak on their behalf," Captain Bennet Milloy of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said of the family, as The New York Times reported. "but personally, I can only imagine how terrible they have to feel for a lot of reasons."

"It really is a tragedy, it's sad. They were hoping to remember the day in a different way," Milloy said, as CNN reported. He added that over 80 percent of fires are linked to human mishaps, which means people need a greater awareness of the fire potential in their surroundings. "You need to be extra cautious because you could be liable."

Milloy added that no decision had been made yet as to whether or not the family will face criminal charges. A decision will wait until after the fire is extinguished. In the meantime, though, as firefighters battle the blaze, evacuations were ordered, including in parts of Yucaipa, a nearby city of nearly 54,000, according to The New York Times.

"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."

This actually isn't the first time a gender-reveal stunt led to a dangerous and costly wildfire. Three years ago, in 2017, a similar event led to a fire that burned through 47,000 acres in Arizona's Santa Rita Mountains. That event caused millions of dollars in damages, when an off-duty U.S. Border Patrol agent shot a high-powered rifle at a target packed with an explosive to reveal the baby's gender, according to CNN. The patrol agent pled guilty and was fined $8.2 million in restitution.

Similarly, a gender-reveal party ignited a Florida brush fire last year. Others claimed the life of a grandmother when shrapnel hit her. Another caused a plane crash in Texas, as The Washington Post reported.

The woman who started the trend took to Facebook to ask people to stop.

"Stop having these stupid parties," blogger Jenna Myers Karvunidis said in a Facebook post on Monday after learning about the El Dorado Fire, as The Washington Post reported. "For the love of God, stop burning things down."

A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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