A massive wildfire in California, which has razed more than 10,000 acres since it broke out on Saturday, was sparked by a pyrotechnic device used during a gender-reveal party, officials have said. Mass evacuations were ordered in the area after firefighters were able to contain about 16 percent of the blaze by Tuesday.
Surveillance footage of the incident shows a group of people, including several children, gathered at the El Dorado Ranch Park in Yucaipa. The party was allegedly organized by a couple expecting a baby to reveal the sex of their child to their friends and family.
A guest is seen igniting the “smoke-generating” firework, which ultimately triggered the huge wildfires in Southern California’s San Bernardino County. The video then goes on to show several other people rushing to douse the flames using water bottles.
No injuries or structural damage have been recorded so far, the New York Times reported. Local authorities have said that they will wait until the fire is extinguished before deciding whether to press charges against the organizers of the gender-reveal party. They may be asked to cover the costs incurred in trying to contain the fire.
“It is a tragedy, it’s sad. They are hoping to remember the day in a different way,” and CalFire investigator Capt. Bennet Milloy. According to Milloy, over 80 percent of fires are caused by human activity. “You need to be extra cautious because you could be liable.”
The El Dorado Ranch Park is frequented by residents from around the area during the fall season as it provides a beautiful backdrop for photographs, Milloy told CNN. However, the tall grass in the park is also more likely to catch fire as it is particularly dry in these months.
The El Dorado fire is one of many wildfires that continue to burn across much of the US’ west coast, which has been experiencing an intense heatwave in recent weeks. In California alone, the fires are believed to have torched more than two million acres of land, according to a report by AFP.
“In my 30 years of the citizen in Yucaipa, I have never seen such a large fire,” Yucaipa Mayor David Avila said during a press briefing on Monday. “As a retired firefighter with 32 years of experience, I can also assure you that I witnessed one of the most dangerous fires that we can have in this area.”
Gender-reveal parties have become increasingly popular in the last decade as a way for new parents to celebrate the news of their child with their close friends and family.
Generally, the sex of the child is revealed by cutting open pink or blue cakes or even popping a balloon containing colored confetti. Some couples, including the organizers of the party in El Dorado Ranch Park, ignite fireworks, which release pink or blue smoke depending on the sex of the baby. These parties have also become the subject of fierce debate and condemnation due to the growing number of accidents that inadvertently occur.