What is a gender reveal party? Here’s what to know after the latest California wildfire incident

By Michael Grothaus

We’ve all heard of wildfires being ignited by lightning strikes, a careless camper’s discarded cigarette, or a poorly put out campfire, but one of the latest California wildfires is believed to have been started by something you normally wouldn’t imagine is a fire hazard: a gender reveal party.

I know . . . what? Here’s what you need to know:

  • This Labor Day weekend, a wildfire broke out in El Ranch Dorado Park near Yucaipa, California. The city is home to 54,000 people and just outside of Los Angeles. Parts of Yucaipa were evacuated as the fire grew to almost a dozen square miles by Monday morning. The cause of the fire? A device used at a gender reveal party, reports Bloomberg.
  • What is a gender reveal party? It’s an event, usually with close friends and families, in which expectant parents reveal the sex of their upcoming child using a bit of flare. Gender reveal parties can sometimes involve the use of devices that are to be hit or exploded by a participant. Once the device is ruptured, a substance inside—anything from smokey powders to confetti—bursts forth revealing the sex of the baby: blue for boys, pink for girls.
  • What types of devices are used at gender reveal parties? Most devices take the form of piñatas that are meant to be struck with a baseball bat. Once struck, the powder or confetti inside bursts forth. However, some devices are literally exploded or lit on fire to reveal the contents inside.
  • Gender reveal parties have surged in popularity thanks to social media. Needless to say, because of the dramatic flare of gender reveal parties, they’re often recorded and posted on social media. That in itself isn’t the problem. The problem comes when people go to extreme lengths to one-up the last gender reveal party they saw online.
  • Extreme gender reveal parties can lead to extreme consequences. While most gender reveal parties go off without a hitch, some have had horrible consequences. As Bloomberg notes, the wildfire started in the El Ranch Dorado Park was ignited when a family “fired off” a gender reveal device in a field, which quickly ignited the tall grasses there. In 2017, another fire was started thanks to a gender reveal party device. And in Iowa last year, a homemade explosive used at a gender reveal party killed a guest.
  • A blogger who popularized gender reveal parties speaks out. Jenna Karvunidis, a blogger who popularized gender reveal parties, spoke out on Facebook after news of the California wildfire spread, saying, “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.”
  • Bottom line? Gender reveal parties can be safe—but just stick to using devices that don’t need to be exploded or have contents such as colored powders, which can ignite. You can check out what happened at a gender reveal party in 2017 gone wrong in the video below.



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