The devastating fires in California that have so far destroyed 7,050 acres of land 40 miles northeast of Palm Springs were sparked by a gender party firework. Families who hosted the party may face millions of dollars in fines or prison terms.
Amid a record heatwave 121 degrees turning the state into a tinder box, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Service said late Sunday that a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device caused the fire.
The devices are sometimes used to emit blue or pink smoke to announce the expected gender of the baby.
According to them, the fire started at 10:23 a.m. on Saturday and 527 people out of 10 fire crews are currently trying to stop the fire from expanding.
It extends from El Dorado Ranch Park in the north to the Yucaipa Range. The ridge separates Mountain Home Village and Forest Falls from Yucaipa City.
Bennett Miloy, a spokesman for the department, told the media that the people hosting the party were still there when the firefighters arrived. Miloy said it was a relatively small family gathering and relatives gathered for a photo shoot.
He did not know if they were locals, but said they may face charges, both civil and criminal. The family could be responsible for millions of dollars in fire fighting costs, he said.
The civil charges are seen as fire fighting charges – charges involving hundreds of firefighters, engines, helicopters and aircraft.
The criminal charges can be classified under multiple charges, he said, which would become more serious if houses were destroyed. The family may be affected by violations of public resources and even arson under California’s Section 452 of the Criminal Code. Arson’s sentence carries a sentence of up to nine years.
When asked if the family realized the severity of their predicament, he said, they understand how bad the fire is.
No injuries were reported. According to a Desert Sun report, an outbuilding was ravaged on Saturday but no further damage was reported as of Sunday afternoon. According to the newspaper, about 30 houses were threatened with fire.
There are evacuation orders for the communities of Oak Glen, Yucaipa Ridge, Mountain Home Village, and Forest Falls. An evacuation warning for the Yucaipa bank area is currently in effect, the fire department said.
Residents were told they could be evacuated to the Yucaipa Community Center as a temporary evacuation facility. Firefighters put out the fire with 60 fire engines and four helicopters with water.