The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office has started reviewing reports & evidence in the 22,000+ acre El Dorado Fire, which was started by a botched gender reveal party during the 2020 Labor Day weekend.
The fire started on Sept. 5 at the El Dorado Ranch Park in Yucaipa. The fire burned 22,744-acres over 23 days.
Cal Fire investigators said the fire was started by a "smoke-generating pyrotechnic device" used at a botched gender reveal party.
"They lit that device. It produced smoke, which ignited the season grasses that was immediately adjacent. That grass immediately spread across to Yucaipa Ridge and then eventually to Oak Glen," CalFire Capt. Bennet Milloy said.
The communities of Oak Glen, north Yucaipa, Mountain Home Village, Forest Falls, and Angelus Oaks were forced to evacuate.
Charles Morton, 39, a 14-year veteran firefighter with the San Bernardino National Forest, was killed during fire suppression operations. 13 other firefighters were injured as well.
The fire was fully contained on Nov. 16, 2020.
Bennet said the family attempted to put the fire out, but it was too late.
"Even though it’s accidental, it could be considered as 'reckless.' In California if it is deemed 'reckless' they could be found criminally liable for burning the wild lands, the homes, the vehicles that were burned during that. CalFire is not looking at this at the moment but they could be civilly responsible for the suppression costs after the fire," Capt. Bennet said.
Officials have never disclosed whether the family has been charged or not but Bennet did mention back in September 2020 that potential charges won't be determined until the fire is out and after the DA's office investigates it.
"I could imagine this is a terribly traumatic experience for them, they were going to have a happy family moment, that obviously went terribly wrong," Bennet said.
The DA's office reported that they received the completed investigative reports from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department earlier this week.
"The deputy district attorneys assigned to the case will begin reviewing these reports, as well as the investigative reports from CalFire, and a review of all other reports and evidence," reads a notice from the DA's office.
The DA's office notes that they anticipate a filing decision to be made no later than March 1, 2021.
Stat with News Channel 3 for continuing updates.