As California continues to be torched by a devastating combination of heat waves and a scourge of wildfires, officials are blaming a gender reveal party for one wild fire that’s scorched over 8,500 acres in Southern California.
“A smoke-generating pyrotechnic device” used during a party sparked the El Dorado fire, according to the Cal Fire San Bernardino Unit.
“Cal Fire reminds the public that with the dry conditions and critical fire weather, it doesn’t take much to start a wildfire,” the agency warned in a press release. “Those responsible for starting fires due to negligence or illegal activity can be held financially and criminally responsible.”
CAL FIRE 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. The fire began at… https://t.co/w62ZRuBdNJ
— CAL FIRE BDU (@CALFIREBDU) September 7, 2020
The news comes as the Golden State is being fried to a crisp by a record-shattering heatwave, with parts of the Los Angeles metropolitan region reaching highest-ever temperatures of 121F (49.4C)
Sunday’s weather was “one of the hottest days since weather records began across much of south-western California,” said the National Weather Service.
The grim record comes one month after Death Valley National Park, also in California, recorded temperature of 130F (54.4C), potentially the highest temperature recorded on the entire planet.
Over two dozen fires are raging across the state, with Cal Fire struggling to gain a grip on the huge Creek Fire, which has scorched over 73,000 acres. None of it has been contained.
The fire began on Friday evening in the steep, rugged terrain of the Sierra National Forest, home to a popular camp site lying near Fresno.
#creekfire county sheriff's and fire crews just escorted nearly 50 families from China Peak near in Sierra national forest. There was an attempted airlift by national guard helicopters, but the smoke and other factors prevented it. pic.twitter.com/Wr39YOdU3c
— Gillis Jones (@Gillis57) September 7, 2020
On late Saturday, rescuers in Chinook and Black Hawk helicopters were deployed to help airlift 207 people to safety when the explosive wildfire cut all road access to the Mammoth Pool Reservoir. Roughly 20 people were hurt, including some who sustained serious burn injuries.
“We had to splash water on our hair because our hair was catching on fire,” Rylee Zukovsky, 16, told the New York Times. “I was shoveling so much water into my face that I was almost drowning myself.”
“Nobody knew helicopters were coming,” she added. “The Chinook just flew out of the smoke.”
Had to cut our Shuteye climbing trip short today due to the Creek Fire. We ended up going the long way around after fire cut off Mammoth Pool road. pic.twitter.com/DbrY7XHe9d
— Matt Freels (@mf) September 6, 2020
The Creek Fire is one of three major fires in California cited by Gov. Gavin Newsom in an emergency declaration Sunday night that applies to the counties of Fresno, Madera, Mariposa, San Bernardino, and San Diego.
This unfortunately was not the first fire caused by a gender reveal party, which are celebrations where expecting parents announce whether they are having a boy or a girl. Since gender reveal parties have gained popularity, they have grown more elaborate and even dangerous.
In April 2017, a gender reveal party sparked a fire that consumed over 45,000 acres in Arizona and caused over $8 million in damage over the span of a week. In 2018, a U.S. Border Patrol agent admitted he was guilty of a misdemeanor violation of U.S. Forest Service regulations for igniting the fire.
Since August 15, California has been inundated by almost 1,000 wildfires, including many caused in Northern California and the Bay Area by a blitz of lightning strikes.
An unsparing heat wave has also hit parts of the state, and officials in the Southern California beach community of Malibu have urged locals and visitors to refrain from hiking after one hiker died from the high temperatures.
Effective immediately, we have been advised that all trails in the #SantaMonicaMountains will be closed through #LaborDay. We responded to several heat related rescues today, including one hiker who unfortunately perished. PLEASE DO NOT #HIKE IN THIS #HEATWAVE. #CAwx #LAHeat pic.twitter.com/B1ZdOu46S3
— Malibu Search Rescue (@MalibuSAR) September 6, 2020
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