If you live on the West Coast, it seems as if the world is on fire. California, Oregon, and Washington are consumed with fire and smoke, and the fire season has only just begun. The Golden State has already lost more than two million acres in the conflagration, and record-high temperatures and winds are only making the situation worse. Some of these fires were caused by lightning — 10,849 strikes in just 72 hours. One was set by a smoke-generating device used at a gender-reveal party.
“There is an immediate threat to life,” the Madera County Sheriff’s Office warned citizens and vacationers near Shaver Lake. “The area is being closed to public access. Take action immediately.” However, the fire spread so quickly, cutting off roads and routes out of the area, that more than 200 people were stranded and had to be rescued by helicopters and other means, according to Daniel Tune, National forest spokesperson
At one point, more than 1,000 people were trapped near the Mammoth Pool Reservoir, 12 miles north of Shaver Lake, a popular camping area. Authorities told the stranded visitors to go into the water to protect themselves from the fire.
Even more alarming, Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig reported:
“When it was first discovered it was only 3 acres. Aircraft were deployed to knock the fire down. They thought they had it pretty well handled. It was knocked down to less than an acre. But within a matter of really just a handful of minutes the fire exploded and was up to 300 acres.”
The Creek Fire trapped 218 people who had to be rescued by Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters. Luckily, no one perished, but at least 20 people were treated for injuries that included burns and broken bones.
These are among a few of the many fires roaring through California, and their causes are still being investigated. But one blaze’s origins have been identified, and the people who “accidentally” started it may have to pay the price.
Gender Reveal Gone Wrong
On Sept. 5, one couple thought it would be a good idea to throw a gender-reveal party and announce it with a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device (even though the West Coast was already smothered in a blanket of smoke), and that kindled the El Dorado wildfire. Sparking to life in El Dorado Ranch Park in Yucaipa, the flames spread north to Yucaipa Ridge, which separates Mountain Home Village and Forest Falls from the city.
The couple — unnamed as yet unless or until charges are officially filed –may have to foot the bill, which Bennett Milloy, California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesperson, expects to cost millions of dollars in “suppression costs,” according to The Daily Mail. They could also likely face other charges, including violations of public resources codes and possibly arson if homes were destroyed, too. Arson convictions in the state could have the couple spending up to nine years behind bars.
As of the time of this writing, the El Dorado fire has already burned 10,574 acres and is only 16% contained, according to the CAL FIRE website.
Read more from Kelli Ballard.