Couple whose botched gender reveal sparked El Dorado Fire reaches plea deal

A couple whose gender reveal party inadvertently sparked the deadly 2020 El Dorado Fire in Yucaipa was sentenced Friday after reaching a plea deal.

Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr. and Angela Renee Jimenez each pleaded guilty to several charges in San Bernardino County, according to prosecutors. 

Jimenez Jr. pleaded guilty to felony charges of involuntary manslaughter and two counts of recklessly causing a fire to an inhabited structure, while Jimenez pleaded guilty to three misdemeanors.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Couple whose gender reveal sparked wildfire charged with involuntary manslaughter

Jimenez Jr. was sentenced to one year in county jail, two years felony probation, and 200 hours of community service. He'll be entered into custody on Feb. 23, prosecutors said.

Jimenez was sentenced to one year summary probation and 400 hours of community service.

Additionally, the couple was ordered to pay restitution worth $1,789,972.

Refugio Jimenez, center, covers his face with a mask and a jacket, as he and wife, Angelina Jimenez, back left, leave the San Bernardino Justice Center in San Bernardino on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022 with their attorneys. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda/Med

The El Dorado Fire erupted on Sept. 5 when the couple and their young children staged a baby gender reveal at El Dorado Ranch Park.

A smoke-generating pyrotechnic device was set off in a field and quickly ignited dry grass on a scorching day. The couple frantically tried to use bottled water to douse the flames and called 911, authorities said.

Strong winds stoked the fire as it ran through the wilderness on national forest land, about 75 miles east of Los Angeles.

Extremely dry conditions and heat waves tied to climate change have made wildfires harder to fight. Climate change has made the West much warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.

On Sept. 17, flames overran a remote area where firefighters were cutting fire breaks, killing Charles Morton, the 39-year-old leader of the elite Big Bear Interagency Hotshot Squad. Morton had worked as a firefighter for 18 years, mostly with the U.S. Forest Service.

The blaze injured 13 other people and forced the evacuations of hundreds of residents in small communities in the San Bernardino National Forest area. It destroyed five homes and 15 other buildings.

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The blaze blackened nearly 36 square miles of land in San Bernardino and Riverside counties before it was contained on Nov. 16.

The fire was one of the thousands during a record-breaking wildfire season in California that charred more than 4% of the state while destroying nearly 10,500 buildings and killing 33 people.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.