This is Wait, What?, a column that explains the seemingly incomprehensible.
Pinterest, what hath thou wrought?
As record wildfires continue to devastate California, authorities have pinpointed the cause of one blaze currently ravaging the state and it’s a … gender-reveal party! The parties, meant to inform friends and family of an expectant baby’s sex by surprising them with a motif of either pink or blue (say, baked inside of a cake) have grown more and more elaborate over the years—and, consequently, more and more disastrous.
Here’s what to know about the latest stunt that went off the rails.
Where is the wildfire and how bad is it?
The El Dorado Fire was sparked on Saturday morning in a park in Yucaipa, a city 70 miles east of Los Angeles. It has since spread to over 10,500 acres and is 16 percent contained as of Tuesday morning. Per CNN, Yucaipa mayor and retired firefighter David Avila said, “in my 30 years as a citizen in Yucaipa, I have never seen such a large fire,” and called it “one of the most dangerous fires that we can have in this area.” CBS Los Angeles reports that 21,000 people have been evacuated and several homes have been destroyed. The family responsible for this could potentially face criminal charges, but authorities say the investigation is still ongoing.
How did this even happen?
A Cal Fire press release chalked it up to a “smoke generating pyrotechnic device” but did not go into further details. However, the last time this happened…
Wait, this has happened before?!
Oh yes. Back in 2017, a Border Patrol agent named Dennis Dickey threw a gender-reveal party that ended with a 47,000-acre wildfire in Arizona. He was sentenced to five years probation, plus a restitution cost of over $8 million. Anyway, Dickey’s method involved shooting a target filled with colored powder mixed with a highly explosive substance called Tannerite that would explode in either a pink or blue cloud (in his case, the latter).
What other gender-reveal disasters have occurred?
A plane crash in Texas. An explosion-related death in Iowa. A car bursting into flames in Australia. A fire in Florida. Alligator abuse also, obviously, in Florida. A fight outside Applebee’s.
How does the person who popularized the gender-reveal party feel about this?
In 2008, blogger Jenna Karvunidis used the cake method to reveal her eldest daughter’s sex and wrote about it in a post that subsequently went viral. Now, much like the inventors of the AK-47 and the Labradoodle, Karvunidis is plagued with a sense of regret over the hell she’s created. Earlier this year, she revealed her dismay to The Guardian, saying that “when I first saw that a gender-reveal party had caused a forest fire I cried because I felt responsible.” More broadly, she said that “there’s such an obsession with gender that it becomes limiting in many ways and exploitative in others.”
In response to this latest wildfire, Karvunidis posted on Facebook: “Stop it. Stop having these stupid parties. For the love of God, stop burning things down to tell everyone about your kid’s penis. No one cares but you.”
Lessons learned here?
If you must, just bake a fucking cake.
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