Firefighter dies battling blaze sparked by gender reveal party in California

SAN BERNADINO COUNTY, Calif. — A firefighter died Thursday while battling California’s El Dorado Fire, a blaze sparked Sept. 5 by a device used as part of a gender reveal party, officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service said.

Officials declined to release the firefighter’s name pending notification of next of kin. Authorities are investigating the death.

“Our deepest sympathies are with the family, friends and fellow firefighters during this time,” Forest Service officials said.

The death marks at least the 26th fatality connected to wildfires this year in California, according to information released by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, also known as CalFire.

Officials previously said the El Dorado Fire began around 10:20 a.m. Sept. 5. It was sparked by a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device used at a gender reveal party in Yucaipa’s El Dorado Ranch Park. The device had been set off in a field and ignited dry grass nearby, The Associated Press reported. The fire spread as the couple who held the gender reveal party tried to douse the flames with bottled water, according to the AP.

Authorities have not identified the couple. It remained unclear Friday whether they would face charges connected to the blaze.

As of Friday morning, the El Dorado Fire has burned more than 21,000 acres in San Bernadino and Riverside counties, according to CalFire. More than a dozen buildings have been damaged or destroyed and a dozen people have been injured, officials said.

Officials had the fire 66% contained Friday.

More than 17,000 firefighters are battling more than two dozen major wildfires across California, CalFire officials said Thursday.