By Omkar Ratnaparkhi
The Gender Reveal Party Gone Wrong
California has suffered multiple wildfires this summer and in the past decade. On September 5th a gender reveal party at the El Dorado Ranch Park near Yucaipa, CA used pyrotechnics to convey the sex of an expected baby through colors–blue for a boy and pink for a girl. Unfortunately, the pyrotechnics were set off near four-foot tall blades of grass, causing a large fire to ensue. Party-goers tried to use water bottles to douse the fire, but their efforts were futile. According to Captain Bennet Malloy of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the family throwing the party then decided to call 9-1-1 and share photos with the authorities.
Climate Change and the Toll on California
So far 26 people have lost their lives in California wildfires in the summer of 2020 alone. The reason that the death toll has been high is due to the ferocity and frequency of fires this year. The forest this year has burned across more land than fires in California in the past two years. In fact, of the ten largest fires to burn in California since 1932, five of them have been this year. Firefighters during this time were also tackling a wildfire in Palm Springs, CA that had started on Thursday September 17th.
Also on Thursday, a firefighter lost his/her (identity withheld) life while fighting the El Dorado gender reveal fire. Captain Malloy stated that criminal charges were already being considered before the firefighter’s death, but the decision will be officially made after the fire is completely contained. As of Friday morning, only two thirds of the fire had been contained. Despite large scale public and private property damage and the loss of life caused by wildfires, criminal charges are not common for the people who start wildfires. Usually the defendant will be taken to civil court and forced to pay millions of dollars in reparations. However, in some rare cases, such as the case of a man from Redding, CA in 2004 led to two years in prison after the wildfire he caused destroyed dozens of homes.
Many climate scientists have drawn the link between man-made climate change and the exacerbation of ferocity of wildfires in recent years. During a roundtable discussion on the wildfires in McClellan Park, CA, California’s Secretary for Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot urged President Trump to look into climate change’s role in worsening wildfire conditions. Crowfoot brought up the fact that California has broken record temperatures this year and that public officials can’t just put their heads in the sand on climate change. The President’s response was, “It’ll start getting cooler. You just watch.” And when Crowfoot responded saying that science says the opposite, Trump replied with,“OK, well, I don’t think science knows, actually.” Blatantly denying climate science has been a hallmark of the Trump Presidency. President Trump’s administration has been dogged defenders of the fossil fuel industry. A few years ago, then-candidate Trump even claimed that climate change was a hoax created by the Chinese government to make American industries uncompetitive.
The History of Dangerous Gender Reveal Parties
Gender reveal parties across the world have resulted in various tragedies. In fact, this wildfire is not one of a kind. In 2017 near Green Valley, AZ an off duty Border Patrol agent fired a rifle at a target containing colored powder and tannerite–a highly explosive chemical. The resulting explosion led to a wildfire that spread to Coronado National Forest. In the end, 800 firefighters were required to fight the fire, 45,000 were damaged, and the monetary toll of the fire was $8 million.
In April 2018, a car ignited in Queensland, Australia as a result of a gender reveal party explosion, and in 2019 a 56-year old woman was killed in Knoxville, IA after a gender reveal party went wrong. The woman tried to create an explosive device to reveal the child’s sex. According to the police report the family had made the device incorrectly, and had in effect created a homemade pipe-bomb that killed her instantly upon explosion. Gender reveal parties have gained great attention over social media in the past decade, but the usage of explosives and other dangerous antics have drawn recent criticism. Blogger Jenna Karvunidis is credited with creating or at least widely popularizing the gender reveal party. In 2008, Karvunidis hosted a party for her first newborn and shared the experience on her blog High Gloss and Sauce. After having ash on her house from yet another wildfire, even Karvunidis has had it with the gender reveal party fad. On September 7th she tweeted, “Could we just stop having these stupid parties and then the problem would solve itself?”