5 gender reveal disasters: wildfires, fatal explosion, plane crash

A wildfire that has burned almost 10,000 acres and forced the evacuation of half a Southern California city was sparked by a pyrotechnic device at a gender reveal party, fire investigators announced Sunday.

The El Dorado Fire, in San Bernardino County, is not the first large wildfire to result from a misguided attempt to announce the sex of an unborn baby. In April 2017, an expectant Arizona father fired a bullet into a target packed with an explosive substance and set off the Sawmill Fire[1], which burned almost 47,000 acres.

That man — Dennis Dickey, a 37-year-old Border Patrol agent — was convicted of a misdemeanor and ordered to pay $8,188,069 in restitution to those whose property was burned.

The U.S. Forest Service released video of the Arizona incident. A gunshot is heard, and a boxlike target explodes in a cloud of blue powder. Immediately, the dry grass around it bursts into flame, and a man is heard yelling, “Start packing up!”

The explosive in that case was identified as a Tannerite target, a brand that explodes when hit by a high-velocity bullet. Tannerite is strictly regulated in California, with a permit required for its purchase or use.

In the El Dorado Fire, investigators from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection revealed few details. They said the fire began at 10:23 a.m. Saturday at El Dorado Ranch Park, just east of the Yucaipa city limit, and that it was caused by a “smoke-generating pyrotechnic device.”

CalFire’s press release referred to a “party;” in an interview with the Associated Press, agency spokesman Bennet Milloy characterized the event as a family outing to record video of the device’s detonation.

He said surveillance video showed the unidentified couple frantically racing to their vehicle to retrieve water bottles once the flames erupted.

“You can’t fight a fire like this with a water bottle,” Milloy said. “They had no chance after it started.”

The couple could be liable for the cost of fighting the fire and criminally charged with misdemeanor or felony counts.

As of Monday, 12 square miles of Yucaipa was under evacuation order[2], as well as neighboring communities in San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

Other bad outcomes from gender reveal parties:

• In April 2018, a car whose exhaust had been rigged to spew blue smoke caught fire as it did doughnuts in front of an expectant Australian couple. The driver bailed and the spectators fled in the incident caught on drone video.

• In September 2019, a crop duster that had just dropped 350 gallons of pink water stalled and crashed in front of party guests in Turkey, Texas. The plane was destroyed and a passenger suffered minor injuries.

• In October 2019, 56-year-old Pamela Kreimeyer died instantly when she was struck in the head by a piece of metal[3] from an exploding device during a family gathering at her home in Knoxville, Iowa. She was the grandmother of the baby whose sex was to be revealed by a homemade pipe bomb using gunpowder and colored powder.

• Finally, in a March 2018 stunt, nobody was injured, but the treatment of an animal drew criticism when the video was released on Facebook. Mike Kliebert, who runs an alligator farm in Louisiana, put a watermelon in the mouth of a gator; when the animal bit down, the melon exploded with blue goo.

Below: Video released by the Forest Service of the start of the Sawmill Fire in Green Valley, Arizona.


  1. ^ set off the Sawmill Fire (www.mercurynews.com)
  2. ^ 12 square miles of Yucaipa was under evacuation order (www.mercurynews.com)
  3. ^ struck in the head by a piece of metal (www.mercurynews.com)

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