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Couple whose gender-reveal party sparked the massive El Dorado fire sentenced

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Firefighters head toward flames as the El Dorado fire approaches in Yucaipa in September 2020. (Los Angeles Times)

The couple whose pyrotechnics during a gender-reveal party set off what came to be known as the massive El Dorado fire in San Bernardino County in 2020 was sentenced Friday after reaching a plea deal with prosecutors.

The couple inadvertently started the 22,000-acre fire on a scorching hot day in a Yucaipa park with a device that was supposed to emit blue or pink smoke, authorities said. The fire killed U.S. Forest Service wildland firefighter Charles Morton, injured two more firefighters and 13 others, destroyed five homes and forced hundreds to evacuate.

Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr. was sentenced to a year in county jail, two years of felony probation and community service after pleading guilty to a felony count of involuntary manslaughter in Morton's death and two felony counts of recklessly causing fire to an inhabited structure, according to the San Bernardino County district attorney's office.

Angelina Jimenez pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor counts of recklessly causing a fire to another's property and was sentenced to a year summary probation and community service, prosecutors said.

The Jimenezes were also ordered to pay victims' restitution in the amount of $1,789,972.

"Resolving the case was never going to be a win," said San Bernardino County Dist. Atty. Jason Anderson in a statement.

"To the victims who lost so much, including their homes with valuables and memories, we understand those are intangibles can never be replaced," Anderson said. "Our hope with this resolution is that it closes a painful chapter in your lives, and the restitution provides a measure of assistance in becoming whole again."

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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