California El Dorado wildfire sparked by firework at GENDER REVEAL party as couple face bill for cost of putting it out

CALIFORNIA'S El Dorado wildfire was sparked by a smoke generating pyrotechnic device released at a gender reveal party as the couple face the bill for the cost of putting it out.

The fire – first ignited on Saturday morning near El Dorado Ranch Park just outside the city of Yucaipa – has now torched over 7,000 acres.

"Cal Fire Law Enforcement has determined the El Dorado Fire, burning near Oak Glen in San Bernardino County, was caused by a smoke generating pyrotechnic device, used during a gender reveal party," the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said in a statement.

"The fire began at 10.23am on September 5, 2020 in the El Dorado Ranch Park in Yucaipa.

"The fire spread from the park to the north on to Yucaipa Ridge that separates Mountain Home Village and Forest Falls from the City of Yucaipa."

The authority emphasised that in the dry conditions "it doesn’t take much to start a wildfire" and that “those responsible for starting fires due to negligence or illegal activity can be held financially and criminally responsible.”

Smoke generating pyrotechnic devices are often used to release blue or pink smoke to announce the gender of an expected baby.

Bennet Milloy, spokesman for the department, told that the people hosting the party were still on the scene when the firefighters arrived.

"We know how it started because they were still there," he said.

"That, and the fact that there were surveillance cameras in the park."

Milloy said that it was a relatively small family gathering, and that the relatives had gathered for a photo opportunity.

It’s unclear if anyone will be charged over the incident.

Social media has since. erupted with furious reactions.

"What the hell is a 'gender reveal party' and why does it need pyrotechnics in a critical fire danger area?" one woman wrote.

"Why can’t people just pop a balloon?" another added.

"This couple needs to be charged for every penny of taxpayer money it costs to fight this fire," one woman suggested.

Meanwhile, over 200 terrified campers were plucked from a burning inferno at Mammoth Pool Reservoir, California, by helicopter after they had become trapped by the roaring blaze.

California National Guard helicopter crews airlifted hordes of campers as flames from the swiftly developing Creek Fire, which is currently burning through the Sierras, and blocked the only route of escape.

A National Guard spokesman said a Chinook helicopter had airlifted the first 50 to 60 evacuees to Fresno Airport, “some of which have been injured by the flames of the fire.”

For some families, jumping into the reservoir water was their only escape from the furnace.

A total of 207 people were airlifted to safety – 20 of those were injured in the blaze, some of them critically.

Two people stayed behind, refusing to be airlifted.

“A Blackhawk helicopter is also involved in the rescue,” Lt. Col. Jonathan Shiroma told CBS Local.

“At the airport, emergency response, fire and medical elements from the 144th Fighter Wing are on hand to assist.

"Both rotary wings are returning to the fire site to evacuate more people immediately.”

"There were several critical patients. Some with broken bones. Some with burns. Many with lacerations and abrasions," Fresno County EMS Director Dan Lynch said.

Imagery and footage from the scene showed apocalyptic scenes of thunder, ash rain and red skies.

“We’re in the truck. The air is so black, we can’t open our eyes without it burning,” Allyson Chance, 14, and her sister, Lily, 16, texted their stepmother as they waited to be rescued, local TV station KMPH reported.

The wildfire is burning across 45,000 acres, jumped a river and cut off the only road into – and out – of Mammoth Pool Campground, according to national forest spokesman Dan Tune.

Campers were told to jump into the reservoir if necessary to protect themselves from the flames.

“Once the fire gets going, it creates its own weather, adding wind to increase the spread,” Tune said.

The lake is 35 miles northeast of Fresno, surrounded by pine forests.

“Adjust your Labor Day weekend plans. Access to Shaver Lake is completely closed to the public due to the #CreekFire,” the Fresno County sheriff’s office tweeted.

Temperatures across the state reached triple figures as the Labor Day weekend heatwave exacerbated the wildfires.

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