Now stupidity is a felony

The death of a firefighter is never easy to report. And the unnecessary death of a firefighter is a shame to have to report.

Earlier this month, in Yucaipa, California, a family thought it was a good idea to, in the middle of a heat wave in a dry park, light off a smoke-producing incendiary device to let people know the sex of their unborn child during a gender-reveal party.

That incident sparked a wildfire that, as of Friday morning, has burned more than 21,000 acres and destroyed a number of homes.

Now, that fire has taken a life. A firefighter, unnamed as of Friday morning, died while trying to douse the flames started by these people.

When it was revealed what had started the fire, I posted a blog headlined “Stupidity should be a felony,” hence the headline of this post.

After its publication, posters to a local social media site excused these people for their actions, saying everything from “it was an accident” to “they tried to put out the fire and stayed around to call 911.”

I don’t think any of those comments will ease the suffering of this brave firefighter’s family, friends and colleagues.

The action by these people was just plain stupid. There really is no other word for it. And now a death has resulted. I’m sure they feel bad, but not half as bad as the people this firefighter left behind.

I’m not saying what the penalty should be; that’s up to a judge. But when the actions of one person cause the death of another, that person must be held accountable, if for no other reason than to prevent it from happening again.

This from The Riverside Press-Enterprise: “On Thursday night, air crews began searching for a missing ‘hotshot’ near Pinezanita, according to a SoCal Air Operations’ Twitter page. Hotshots are specially trained firefighters who often battle blazes in remote regions.

“Authorities did not release the agency or position of the firefighter, though said more details would be released.”

Although this was the first death from the El Dorado Fire, one of numerous blazes burning in California, Oregon, Washington and Arizona, it was not the first injury.

“Forest officials said Friday there had been 12 injuries related to the (El Dorado) fire, though it was immediately unclear if those were to firefighters or civilians,” The Press Enterprise reported. “Two homes have been destroyed and another two damaged. More than 26,000 structures were threatened.”

As of Friday morning, the inferno was 66 percent contained. (Contained does not mean how much of the fire has been extinguished. It refers to how much of a control line has been placed around the blaze.)

The (Palm Springs) Desert Sun reported that the family who planned the small gathering was cooperating with authorities.

Fire officials told the publication that the family called 911 after trying to extinguish the blaze themselves. They remained on the scene until firefighters arrived, according to the report.

Cal Fire Capt. Bennet Milloy said the blaze remains under investigation.

“Those responsible for starting fires due to negligence or illegal activity can be held financially responsible and criminally responsible,” Cal Fire officials said.

Milloy said investigators are testing the mechanism used at the family gathering to see if it’s considered a “safe and sane” firework.

But he said “safe and sane” pyrotechnic devices are illegal in Yucaipa, a city in San Bernardino County, California.

There was nothing safe or sane about what these people did.

Published by Mike Sturman

I am a retired journalist with nearly 30 years in the field, during which time I was a reporter and held numerous editor positions at local newspapers and a number of magazines. After I retired, I was a sub in my local school district, then did PR for that district. I hold a Bachelor's Degree in journalism, and as for my politics, that's simple: I'm a liberal Democrat. I'm married, and my wife recently retired after 25 years as a teacher. We have one daughter, who has earned her PhD and works at a UC. Through this blog, I hope to pass on some interesting thoughts and ideas, entertain with some lighthearted posts and generally quell my pandemic-induced boredom.

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