Home International Gender-reveal stunt started wildfire that saw 21 000 Californians evacuated

Gender-reveal stunt started wildfire that saw 21 000 Californians evacuated

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As of Monday night, the barely contained fire had grown into a monster that has already burned through nearly 10 000 acres and forced more than 20 000 people to evacuate

The El Dorado Fire burns in the San Bernardino National Forest. Picture: Eldoradofire8152

A COUPLE expecting a new baby set out on Saturday morning to share the news of the child’s sex by setting off a smoke bomb that would send plumes of pink or blue smoke rising into the arid Southern California air.

As the pyrotechnic device ignited, so did the dry wild grasses that had grown as tall as four feet in the meadow at El Dorado Ranch Park, about 80 miles east of Los Angeles, Cal Fire said in a statement.

As of Monday night, the barely contained fire had grown into a monster that has already burned through nearly 10 000 acres and forced more than 20 000 people to evacuate.

The misguided “gender-reveal” stunt is not the first to spark a costly conflagration. A similar antic in 2017 started a 47 000-acre wildfire in the foothill’s of southern Arizona’s Santa Rita Mountains. In April, another gender-reveal gimmick set off a brush fire in Florida. Gender-reveal parties have caused a plane crash and last year one killed a grandmother when she was struck with shrapnel after a family unintentionally created a pipe bomb while attempting a colourful explosion to announce the sex of their unborn child.

After years of accidents stemming from gender-reveal parties, the woman who is widely credited with starting the trend has a new message for excited parents-to-be: “Stop it.”

“Stop having these stupid parties,” blogger Jenna Myers Karvunidis said in a Facebook post on Monday after learning about the El Dorado Fire. “For the love of God, stop burning things down.”

Karvunidis popularised the gender-reveal party when she threw one to announce her oldest daughter’s sex in 2008. She and her husband cut into a cake filled with pink frosting, and she wrote about the family event on her blog High Gloss and Sauce. But the increasingly dramatic, and often dangerous, events that her party spawned have left Karvunidis begging people to leave the trend in the past.

“It was 116 degrees in Pasadena yesterday and this tool thought it would be smart to light a fire to announce his unborn child’s sex“, she wrote. “Toxic masculinity is men thinking they need to explode something because simply enjoying a baby party is for sissies.”

Karvunidis, who said on Facebook that her family is now under a fire evacuation watch, has been rethinking the gender-reveal tradition she started for a while now. She told NPR last year that the fun celebration had turned into a “bit of a nightmare”.

Her thinking also changed because of her daughters’ diverse range of gender expression. Her oldest daughter wears suits, she said, but another daughter cried when Santa Claus brought her Legos on Christmas because she thought it was a “boy” toy.

“Now I think the whole thing is not great at all,” she told the Guardian. “The problem is they overemphasise one aspect of a person.”

In the June interview, Karvunidis said she regretted inspiring the parties, especially the ones that caused property damage or even injured people.

“When I first saw that a gender-reveal party had caused a forest fire I cried because I felt responsible,” she told the publication months before the El Dorado Fire.