Gender reveal party pyrotechnic sparks 7,000-acre California wildfire

California's devastating summer of fires made worse by a bad decision on what should have been a joyous occasion.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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The El Dorado fire in San Bernardino County, California as seen from Forest Falls.

Cal Fire San Bernardino/Inyo/Mono Unit

California is suffering under withering heat waves and massive swathes of enraged wildfires. While many of the Northern California fires started as lightning strikes, the El Dorado fire in San Bernardino County east of Los Angeles had a very human cause: a gender-reveal party.

Cal Fire, the state agency that monitors and responds to wildfires, reported the cause of the El Dorado fire in a release on Sunday. The law enforcement arm of Cal Fire determined it "was caused by a smoke generating pyrotechnic device, used during a gender reveal party." 

Gender reveal parties are popular ways to tell friends and family whether an expectant couple will have a boy or a girl. The fire-starting event took place on Sept. 5. 

As of the weekend, the fire covered over 7,000 acres. Several communities in the fire's path received evacuation orders and the San Bernardino National Forest closed a long list of trailheads and other recreation areas.

This isn't the first time gender-reveal fireworks have resulted in devastation. In 2017, a similar celebration kicked off the massive Sawmill Fire in Arizona, which eventually spread to over 45,000 acres. 

Cal Fire is currently tracking multiple blazes all across the state. Satellite views have shown massive smoke plumes, which are only getting worse, according to new imagery shared over the weekend by the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere at Colorado State University.

Cal Fire reminded the public that "those responsible for starting fires due to negligence or illegal activity can be held financially and criminally responsible."