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Couple who sparked fire at gender reveal faces involuntary manslaughter charge

Wednesday, July 21st 2021, 3:44 pm - The couple's net court date has not been set.

A California couple accused of sparking a wildfire in September 2020 after detonating a smoke bomb during a gender reveal party has been charged with 30 crimes, including involuntary manslaughter, officials announced Tuesday.

The manslaughter charge stems from the death of 39-year-old Charles Morton, a firefighter who was killed while attempting to suppress the flames.

Two others were injured.

The 'El Dorado fire' that sparked as a result of the couple's actions torched nearly 9,000 hectares of land and forced thousands from their homes.

At least six fire agencies were involved in extinguishing, containing, and investigating the blaze.

Speaking with reporters, Jason Anderson, San Bernardino County's District Attorney, said the charges reflect the seriousness of the crimes.

"You're obviously dealing with lost lives, you're dealing with injured lives, and you're dealing with people's residences that were burned and land that was burned," Anderson said.

"And that encompasses a lot of not only emotion but damage, both financially and psychologically in a way nobody will get back, particularly the Morton family."

The charges were filed after 34 witnesses testified before a grand jury. More than 430 exhibits were presented during the four-day trial.

Anderson told reporters the reason the investigation took so long was because officials wanted to be thorough.

"Given the scope and the impact of the El Dorado Fire on the land and lives of so many, particularly Charles Morton and his family, it was imperative that every investigation be completed within both federal and state agencies to provide a full, fair presentation to the members of our community," Anderson said.

The unnamed couple pleaded not guilty during their Tuesday arraignments.

Prosecutors requested a $50,000 bail for both defendants, but the couple was released without bail until their next court date, which has not been set.

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