A couple’s plan to reveal their baby’s gender went up not in blue or pink smoke but in flames when the device they used sparked a wildfire that burned thousands of acres and forced people to flee from a city east of Los Angeles.
The fire prompted evacuations in parts of Yucaipa, a city of 54,000, and the surrounding area. Water-dropping helicopters were brought in but the fire has proven stubborn — it grew to 11.5 square miles (30 square kilometres) by Monday morning and more than 500 firefighters on the scene only had minimal containment. No homes have burned and no injuries reported.
It’s the latest in what has become a lengthy list of tragedies at events where typically smoke, confetti, balloons or other coloured objects are used to reveal the soon-to-be-born child’s biological sex — pink for girls and blue for boys. Sometimes the made-for-social-media gatherings are spectacles and include explosives and even guns, and at least one had deadly consequences.
The fire started Saturday morning at El Ranch Dorado Park, a rugged natural area popular with hikers and dog owners. In summer the park’s tall natural grasses dry out and turn golden, and when combined with the San Bernardino Mountains in the distance, provide a popular backdrop for family photos and videos.
The unidentified couple chose the location to reveal their baby’s gender. They were accompanied by their young children and had a friend or relative videoing on a cell phone, said Capt. Bennet Milloy of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The family went into a field and fired off the device, which quickly ignited 4-foot (1.2 meters) grasses, Milloy said. Conditions were perfect for a fire to spread quickly — triple-digit temperatures, low humidity, dry vegetation and a stiff breeze.
Surveillance video showed the couple frantically race to their vehicle to retrieve water bottles to try to extinguish the flames. It was futile and they called 911.
“You can’t fight a fire like this with a water bottle,” Milloy said. “They had no chance after it started.” Firefighters arrived within minutes and the distraught couple told them what happened and provided their own photos and video to aid the investigation, Milloy said.
“It’s a pretty tragic situation,” he said. “Obviously this was supposed to be a happy event.” The couple could be liable for the cost of fighting the fire and criminally charged with a misdemeanour or felony counts.
In 2017, a massive Arizona wildfire was accidentally started by an off-duty Border Patrol agent who shot a target filled with explosive blue powder. The fire burned 47,000 acres (73 square miles) and caused USD 8 million in damages, Agent Dennis Dickey was charged with a misdemeanour and sentenced to probation.
Last year, a homemade explosive used to reveal a baby’s gender killed 56-year-old Pamela Kreimeyer in Knoxville, Iowa. The device was meant to spray powder but instead blew up like a pipe bomb. Kreimeyer, who was standing 45 feet (13 metres) away, died instantly when the debris struck her head.
Milloy said some devices used to reveal genders are harmless but others contain chemicals that produce heat and can spark fires.
He said the device used on Saturday will be tested to determine what it contained. Milloy didn’t know the colour it emitted.
US Northeast digs out after massive snow storm, Two dead
People across the U.S. Northeast were digging themselves out on Tuesday after a powerful storm blanketed parts of the region with more than 2 feet of snow, prompting airlines to cancel flights and contributing to at least two deaths.
The nor`easter – an East Coast storm whose winds blow from the northeast – cut power to thousands of households, and halted some subway and train service in and around New York City. It dropped about 30 inches (76 cm) of snow in parts of New Jersey and Pennsylvania and up to 18 inches (46 cm) in New York City.
The snowy weather was expected to continue in parts of the Northeast, with a stretch from upstate New York to northern Maine hit the hardest, the National Weather Service said in its latest forecast on Tuesday. Snow could develop in the Upper Midwest on Wednesday before the storm runs its course, it said.
In Allentown, Pennsylvania, a 67-year-old woman suffering from Alzheimer`s disease was found lying dead in the snow on Monday after wandering away from her home, police said.
A man in Newark, New Jersey, died after being found lying in the snow on Monday, according to police officials, who said the death was not considered suspicious.
In New York City, public transit was coming back to life. Outdoor subway service, which had been suspended, resumed, buses were running on reduced schedules, and the area`s major commuter railroads had resumed partial or full operations.
The city`s LaGuardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport, where flights were canceled on Monday, both said they were working to clear the snow and that they expected activity to pick up later on Tuesday.
The storm prompted widespread closings of schools and COVID-19 vaccination sites. In Connecticut, about 10,000 vaccination appointments were canceled on Monday, with plans to reschedule them for later this week.
Putin Ordered To Begin Large-scale Coronavirus Vaccination in Russia
MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin ordered a large-scale voluntary vaccination program against COVID-19 coronavirus to begin next week across Russia, saying teachers and doctors should be first in line to get the country’s flagship Sputnik V vaccine. Putin gave the order during an online meeting with ministers on Wednesday, a day when Russia, which has the fourth-highest number of recorded infections in the world, registered 589 new daily deaths from the coronavirus.
Putin said Russia will have produced 2 million vaccine doses within the next few days. Sputnik V, one of two Russian-made vaccines to have received domestic regulatory approval so far despite clinical trials being incomplete, requires two injections. A third vaccine is also in the works. Russia said last month that the Sputnik jab was 92% effective at protecting people from COVID-19 according to interim results. “Let’s agree on this – you will not report to me next week, but you will start large-scale vaccination… Let’s get to work already,” Putin told Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova. “I understand that you’re using very careful language and it’s absolutely right that we are cautious. But I know that industry and the (health) network are in general ready. Let’s take this first step.” Russia has already vaccinated more than 100,000 high-risk people, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said during a separate presentation to the United Nations about Sputnik V.
According to the presentation, more than 45,000 people are currently participating in Sputnik V trials worldwide. The rise in infections in Russia has slowed since reaching a high on Nov. 27, with 25,345 new daily cases reported on Wednesday. Russia has resisted imposing lockdowns during the second wave of the virus, preferring targeted regional curbs. ‘ABSOLUTE PRIORITY’ The Kremlin earlier gave assurances that Russians were first in line to be vaccinated, with Moscow also discussing supply deals with other countries. “The absolute priority is Russians,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “Production within Russia, which is already being developed, will meet the needs of Russians.” Authorities in St Petersburg, which reported 3,684 new infections on Wednesday, ordered bars and restaurants to close from Dec. 30 until Jan. 3, to combat the rise in cases there, the RIA news agency reported.
Museums, theatres, and concert halls would be closed to the public in the city of more than 5 million people for the duration of Russia’s New Year holidays, from Dec. 30 to Jan. 10. In Moscow, a remote learning period for secondary school students was extended beyond Dec. 6 to the end of the year. With 2,347,401 infections, Russia only has fewer COVID-19 cases than the United States, India, and Brazil. It has recorded 41,053 deaths related to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
Iran Mulls Response as it Prepares to Bury Killed Nuclear Scientist
Debate raged in Iran on Sunday over how and when to respond to a top nuclear scientist’s assassination, blamed on arch-foe Israel, as his body was honoured at Shiite shrines to prepare it for burial.
Two days after Mohsen Fakhrizadeh died from wounds sustained in a firefight between his guards and unidentified gunmen near Tehran, parliament demanded a halt to international inspections of Iranian nuclear sites while a top official hinted Iran should leave the global non-proliferation treaty.
Iran’s Supreme National Security Council usually handles decisions related to the country’s nuclear programme, and parliamentary bills must be approved by the powerful Guardians Council.
President Hassan Rouhani has stressed the country will seek its revenge in “due time” and not be rushed into a “trap”.
Israel says Fakhrizadeh was the head of an Iranian military nuclear programme, the existence of which the Islamic republic has consistently denied, and Washington had sanctioned him in 2008 for activities linked to Iran’s atomic activities.
The scientist’s body was taken for a ceremony on Sunday at a major shrine in the holy city of Qom before being transported to the shrine of the Islamic republic’s founder Imam Khomeini, according to Iranian media.
Fakhrizadeh’s funeral will be held Monday in the presence of senior military commanders and his family, the defence ministry said on its website, without specifying where.
Israel has not officially commented on Fakhrizadeh’s killing, less than two months before US President-elect Joe Biden is set to take office after four years of hawkish foreign policy under President Donald Trump.