A couple responsible for causing the El Dorado wildfire might end up behind bars due to damage enacted. What was supposed to be a memorable day of revealing the baby’s gender sparked a raging wildfire in El Dorado, which led to the death of a fireman. The expecting parents’ baby fever may turn to dismay if they are charged with involuntary manslaughter by the courts. After the wildfire was sparked, it then went on a destructive journey through California’s San Bernadino Mountains swallowing everything in its path and offering a stern resistance to the firefighters who were trying to stamp it out.
Refugion Manuel Jimenez Jr. and Angela Renee Jimenez appeared before the courts on Monday, facing charges of starting a wildfire that killed a firefighter. The couple pleaded not guilty to the charges. In the narration of events on that particular day, Refugion Manuel Jimenez Jr. and his wife Angela Renee Jimenez threw a party at a ranch near the mountain range, which was meant to reveal a baby’s gender on September 5. During the celebrations at the El Dorado Ranch Park in Yucaipa, it was revealed that the couple used a ‘pyrotechnic device to generate colored smoke’ as part of entertainment for the guests. During this time of the year, the mountain area is dominated by brownish dry grass. Since the current weather condition are associated with low humidity and hot air masses, the pyrotechnic device ignited a fire on the grass because of hot weather conditions.
The dry grass was very quick to ferry the flames all over the area. It is reported that after a failed attempt to put out the flames using bottles of water, the couple called emergency services for help. Dry and hot weather conditions fuelled the flames, and it turned into a deadly wildfire spreading quickly in the dry forest land on the San Bernadino mountains. Firefighters exerted a lot of effort in fighting the inferno, which lasted for about two months. Fireman Mr. Morton was part of the firefighters’ team trying to control the situation.
Unfortunately, tragedy struck as Mr. Morton lost his life while executing his firefighting duties with peers, and he left behind a grieving fiancé Monica Tapia. Reports from his team members allude to how intense flames overran to an area where Morton and other firefighters were busy cutting a fire break meant to stop the fire from spreading to nearby houses. The blaze caused by the Jimenez family in EL Dorado did not only take a man’s life but it was recorded that about 22 680 acres, 36 square miles of land, five homes were destroyed. Four more properties were damaged and some burnt to ashes, and firefighters successfully extinguished the inferno on November 16, which translates to many weeks of living in ‘hell.
According to news reports on the court documents, thirteen more people, including two firefighters, were injured while fighting the fire, but they survived. On the Jimenez family’s charge sheets, it is stated they are being charged with one count of involuntary manslaughter and three felony counts based on recklessly causing a fire with ‘great bodily injury. The couple is also charged with 22 misdemeanor counts of recklessly causing a fire on another’s property and face four counts of recklessly causing a fire in an area with inhabited structures, thus according to the San Bernadino County district attorney [Source].
All the charges amount to 30 crimes committed by the couple, and evidence was acquired from 34 testimonies presented by witnesses and 434 exhibits shown in court. District Attorney Jason Anderson cited how this case involves loss of lives, injured people, burnt residences, and land that was left crispy, so it does not only emotionally affect the people but has financial and psychological effects [Source].
After the reading of charges, the couple pleaded not guilty to accusations stated and then got released on bail. Regarding Mr. Morton’s death, Anderson contended how they found an “unbroken chain” of events. He explained that there was no indication of any firefighter negligence which might have led to Morton’s death. For his efforts, Mr. Morton was given a hero’s farewell by residents who lined in the streets as his coffin passed to a funeral procession. He lost his life trying to save these people’s lives by cutting down trees so that the blaze would not reach their houses.
Given the magnitude of the blaze and all the damages incurred, the soon-to-be parents can only hope for acquittal so that they are not put behind bars, but their actions might call for some punishment by the courts.