With more than 7,000 acres burned and home evacuations ordered in at least four separate communities across California's San Bernardino county, authorities with the state's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection have traced the massive El Dorado Fire to — of all things — a gender reveal party gone horribly wrong.
In a press release issued late Sunday evening, the Cal Fire San Bernardino Unit announced: "Law enforcement has determined the El Dorado Fire, burning near Oak Glen in San Bernardino County, was caused by a smoke generating pyrotechnic device, used during a gender reveal party."
Incredibly, the El Dorado blaze — one of the many ongoing conflagrations that prompted California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) to declare a state of emergency on Sunday evening — is not the first to stem from prospective parents' need to announce their impending progeny by lighting something on fire. In 2017, off-duty Border Patrol agent Dennis Dickey's explosive gender reveal party ignited Arizona's massive Sawmill Fire that ended up consuming more than 45,000 acres of land and costing more than $8 million in damages.
Dickey later pleaded guilty to starting the blaze and was ordered to pay restitution for the fire, as well as was sentenced to five years probation.
Cal Fire has not announced any charges stemming from the El Dorado Fire, but did leave open the possibility of criminal proceedings, warning: "Those responsible for starting fires due to negligence or illegal activity can be held financially and criminally responsible."
More than 500 firefighters, 60 engines, and four helicopters have been called to help fight the blaze, which has forced evacuations in the neighboring communities of Oak Glen, Yucaipa Ridge, Mountain Home Village, and Forest Falls since it began Saturday morning.
As of Sunday, the fire was only 5% contained, according to Cal Fire's tracking page.