Gender-Reveal Party Is Blamed in California Wildfire

An elaborate plan to reveal a baby’s gender went disastrously wrong when a “smoke-generating pyrotechnic device” ignited a wildfire that consumed thousands of acres east of Los Angeles over the holiday weekend, the authorities said.

The device ignited four-foot-tall grass at El Dorado Ranch Park on Saturday morning, and efforts to douse the flames with water bottles proved fruitless, Capt. Bennet Milloy of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as Cal Fire, said Monday. The family called 911 to report the fire and shared photos with investigators.

By Monday, the fire had burned more than 7,300 acres and was only 7 percent contained, the authorities said. Evacuations were ordered, including in parts of Yucaipa, a nearby city of nearly 54,000. It was just one of several fires that continued to burn out of control up and down California on Monday, as extreme heat roasted much of the state.

No injuries or serious structural damage were immediately reported.

Criminal charges were being considered, but would not be filed before the fire is extinguished, Captain Milloy said. Cal Fire could also ask those responsible to reimburse the cost of fighting the fire, he added.

Ms. Karvunidis, who lives in California, said in a telephone interview that she had ash on her house from another wildfire that was burning in the Angeles National Forest northeast of Los Angeles. “Could we just stop having these stupid parties and then the problem would solve itself?” she wrote on Twitter. “Thanks.”

The gender-reveal celebration that sparked the El Dorado fire wasn’t the first one to end in mayhem. It wasn’t even the first one to end in a wildfire.

In April 2017 near Green Valley, Ariz., about 26 miles south of Tucson, an off-duty Border Patrol agent fired a rifle at a target filled with colored powder and Tannerite, a highly explosive substance, expecting to learn the gender of his child.

When placed with colorful packets of powder and shot at, Tannerite can fill the air with colorful residue for gender-reveal parties: blue for boys or pink for girls.

The resulting explosion sparked a fire that spread to the Coronado National Forest. It consumed more than 45,000 acres, resulted in $8 million in damages and required nearly 800 firefighters to battle it. The border agent immediately reported the fire and admitted that he started it, the United States attorney for the District of Arizona said in September 2018.

The agent, Dennis Dickey, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor violation of United States Forest Service regulations, admitting that he had ignited what became known as the Sawmill Fire, and agreed to pay more than $8.1 million in restitution.

In April 2018, a car in Australia that was emitting blue, billowing smoke burst into flames, leading to the driver’s conviction for dangerous operation of a car.

The woman died instantly after a metal piece from the device struck her in the head, the authorities said.

Daniel Victor contributed reporting.

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