The El Dorado Fire in San Bernardino County has scorched 9,671 acres and was only 7% contained as of late Monday night, according to fire officials, who say it’s “one of the most dangerous fires” they’ve seen in the area.
Cal Fire investigators determined that the fire was caused by a “smoke-generating pyrotechnic device” used at a party on Saturday morning in El Dorado Ranch Park in Yucaipa, California.
Evacuations have been ordered in the area as homes have been threatened.
“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 press 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.”
No injuries have been reported and no structures have been damaged in the blaze, Cal Fire PIO Cathey Mattingly confirmed to CNN.
Firefighters were able to make good progress on the fire Monday as there was no major wind event, according to a press release from the San Bernardino National Forest.
“The hard work of crews on the ground, dozers and aircraft have enabled a lot of great work to be accomplished as fire lines continue to be constructed around the fire in preparation for the upcoming Red Flag Santa Ana Wind event starting at noon tomorrow and lasting through Wednesday,” they added.
Surveillance video reviewed by investigators showed a couple with several children walking into the grass while another person appears to light a device, CalFire investigator Capt. Bennet Milloy told CNN Monday. After it ignites, the family is seen scrambling and grabbing water bottles to try and douse the growing fire. Everyone involved has cooperated with investigators, Milloy said.
Fire officials have refused to release the video to CNN, citing that it is an ongoing investigation.
Currently, fire investigators have identified at least three laws that have been violated, including “igniting the land” and arson. The level of recklessness will determine whether those are filed as misdemeanors or felonies. Based on that, penalties could vary.
If the district attorney pursues the case, the person who ignited the pyrotechnic would be the person charged, Milloy explained.
“It really is a tragedy, it’s sad. They were hoping to remember the day in a different way,” Milloy said, adding that over 80% of fires are caused by humans and that people need to be more aware of their surroundings. “You need to be extra cautious because you could be liable.”
It’s not the first time a gender reveal has started a fire. In 2017, an off-duty US Border Patrol agent shot a high powered rifle at a target packed with an explosive as part of a gender reveal, igniting a fire in Arizona that grew to nearly 47,000 acres and caused more than $8 million in damage.
He pleaded guilty in 2018 to a misdemeanor and was sentenced to five years’ probation and ordered to pay almost $8.2 million in restitution.