The Slatest

Gender-Reveal Party Sparked One of the Massive California Wildfires

A firefighter works the line as flames push towards homes during the Creek fire in the Cascadel Woods area of unincorporated Madera County, California on September 7, 2020.
A firefighter works the line as flames push towards homes during the Creek fire in the Cascadel Woods area of unincorporated Madera County, California on September 7, 2020. JOSH EDELSON/Getty Images

As wildfires rage in California amid record-breaking temperatures in the state, officials said one of the fires was started during a gender-reveal party. A “smoke generating pyrotechnic device” is to blame for sparking the El Dorado Fire in San Bernardino County, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said. It is one of the 23 major fires burning in California.

The El Dorado Fire began Saturday morning at the El Dorado Ranch Park in Yucaipa and then spread north. It has since burned though more than 7,000 acres and forced the evacuations of 3,000 people. “With the dry conditions and critical fire weather, it doesn’t take much to start a wildfire. Those responsible for starting fires due to negligence or illegal activity can be held financially and criminally responsible,” reads the statement from Cal Fire.

Around 15,000 firefighters are working to battle the California wildfires amid a record heatwave that is pressuring the power grid and is threatening to leave millions without electricity. The cause of the El Dorado blaze may raise a few eyebrows but it’s hardly the first time that the practice of expectant parents announcing the sex of their soon-to-be-born child in an explosive fashion ends in tragedy. In 2017, a border patrol agent started a 47,000-acre wildfire that caused more than $8 million in damage in southern Arizona. Two years later, an explosion at a gender-reveal party killed an Iowa woman in October 2019. In November of that year, an elaborate gender reveal party led to a plane crash in Texas as a plan to dump 3350 gallons of pink water went wrong. Only minor injuries were reported in that case.

Officials have called on people to really think twice before using any kind of explosive to announce the sex of their baby. And many say it’s time to retire the practice altogether, including a women who has been credited with being one of the people responsible for popularizing gender-reveal parties. “It started to take a turn,” Jenna Karvunidis said in a 2019 interview. “Then I started to realize that nonbinary people and trans people were feeling affected by this, and I started to feel bad that I had released something bad into the world.”

On Monday, Karvundis wrote a post on Facebook calling for everyone to stop having gender reveal parties. “Stop it. Stop having these stupid parties. For the love of God, stop burning things down to tell everyone about your kid’s penis. No one cares but you,” she wrote.

*This post has been updated with new information since it was first published.