White text against a red and orange background read:
A single gender-reveal party in California has caused more property damage than all the 2020 BLM protests combined.
Around the same time, a 2019 article from The Atlantic (headlined “How Many People Have to Die Before We’re Done With Gender Reveals?”) circulated:
In late 2019, we did a fact check to determine whether gender reveal parties had killed more people than “Antifa” protesters (they have):
‘A Single Gender Reveal Party in California’ and the El Dorado Fire
Acccording to Cal Fire (fire.ca.gov), a fire known as the El Dorado Fire began on September 5 2020 — two days before the Facebook post was published.
As of September 9 2020, an incident page on inciweb.nwcg.gov explained that damage assessment teams were working to determine the extent of damages:
The El Dorado Fire started at approximately 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, September 5  at El Dorado Ranch Park in Yucaipa, Calif. The fire is currently estimated at 11,479 acres with 19% containment. View the Current Fire Map. Read the September 9th  Morning Fire Update.
Fire Crews conducted firing operations along Oak Glen Road, and in areas south of Mountain Home Village / Highway 38 and east toward Forest Falls to create defensible space between homes and the current fire perimeter. This allows firefighters to pick the spot where the fires edge will stop, providing a higher degree of safety to firefighters and to structures. Fire crews and equipment will continue to extinguish hot spots along the fires edge continuing to secure fire lines. Red Flag Warnings are in effect through this evening [September 9 2020]. Damage assessment teams are currently working in the area to confirm the extent of the damages, the number of structures involved and their locations.
On September 8 2020, CNN reported that the cause of the El Dorado fire was, in fact, a single gender reveal party. A “pyrotechnic device” employed at the party sparked off the massive fire:
A fire sparked by a pyrotechnic device used during a gender reveal party has burned more than 10,000 acres since [September 5 2020].
The El Dorado Fire in Southern California’s San Bernardino County has scorched 10,574 acres and was 16% contained as of [September 8 2020], according to fire officials, who say it’s “one of the most dangerous fires” they’ve seen in the area.
The fire was caused by a “smoke-generating pyrotechnic device” used at a party on Saturday morning [September 5 2020] in El Dorado Ranch Park in Yucaipa, about 70 miles east of Los Angeles, Cal Fire investigators determined.
Evacuations have been ordered in the area as homes have been threatened. About 87 large wildfires are burning across the United States, with California hit hardest.
“In my 30 years as a citizen in Yucaipa, I have never seen such a large fire,” Yucaipa Mayor David Avila said during a [September 7 2020] news conference. “As a retired firefighter with 32 years of experience, I can assure you I witnessed one of the most dangerous fires that we can have in this area.”
No injuries have been reported and no structures have been damaged in the blaze, Cal Fire spokeswoman Cathey Mattingly said.
Via Instagram, Cal Fire San Bernardino reiterated the cause of the El Dorado fire:
As of September 9 2020, authorities did not appear to have an estimate for the cost of the El Dorado fire, but some reporting surmised that those responsible for the gender reveal might be held criminally or civilly liable, and further noted that the cost could not be determined until the the fire was completely out:
“They lit that device. It produced smoke, which ignited the season grasses that was immediately adjacent. That grass immediately spread across to Yucaipa Ridge and then eventually to Oak Glen,” CalFire Capt. Bennet Milloy said.
Capt. Bennet said the family attempted to put the fire out, but it was too late.
“Even though it’s accidental, it could be considered as ‘reckless.’ In California if it is deemed ‘reckless’ they could be found criminally liable for burning the wild lands, the homes, the vehicles that were burned during that. CalFire is not looking at this at the moment but they could be civilly responsible for the suppression costs after the fire,” Capt. Bennet said.
Much of that cost has yet to be determined until the fire is completely out. Milloy said depending on what is destroyed the family could face misdemeanor and felony charges. Findings from the investigation will be turned over to the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s office, and that will determine how the family could be prosecuted.
“I feel terrible for them, they’re probably feeling really guilty and they may be prosecuted for this. This woman’s pregnant and I feel really bad for that family, but at the same time it was pretty stupid,” Mountain Home Village resident, Philip Scalf said.
One controversial element of gender reveal parties was the general premise of one-upping previous gender reveals, with increasingly complex and large displays or announcements. A CNN editorial, also published on September 8 2020, mentioned the costs and at least one fatality associated with previous gender reveal parties:
We’ve seen time and again why this practice is pointless at best and dangerous at worst. An Arizona gender reveal party in 2017, in which the expecting father shot an explosive substance at a target, started a wildfire that destroyed 47,000 acres. He was charged and ordered to repay some $8 million in damages. There goes the kid’s college fund (and possibly its home and any semblance of nature to play in).
A gender reveal party in Iowa [in 2019] that essentially involved the detonation of a pipe bomb killed a grandmother-to-be.
No particular credible estimate for the cost of the El Dorado fire appeared to be available as of September 9 2020; the post was shared on September 7 2020. Officials confirmed that a gender reveal party’s pyrotechnical device was the sole cause of the massive fire.
‘… Caused More Property Damage than All the 2020 BLM Protests Combined’
Although the El Dorado fire’s economic impact had yet to be calculated as the burning continued, “all the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests” had been ongoing since late May 2020, following the death of George Floyd.
Another “apples-to-oranges” element of the claim involved the fact the El Dorado fire was a single event sparked by a single event, the use of a pyrotechnic device and a resulting massive blaze. Protests first prompted by the death of George Floyd occurred in many cities, and any resultant damages were not calculated in any centralized fashion.
A June 2 2020 Claims Journal (insurance industry trade reporting) article addressed putative damages in a speculative fashion:
[Verisk’s Property Claims Service or PCS] head Tom Johansmeyer said the riots that were sparked by Floyd’s death may be the first civil disorder tracked by PCS that includes more than one state.
Johansmeyer said “to better understand” potential riots from current rioting, it make sense to look at losses caused by civil unrest last year in Chile — which grew from protests over an increase in subway fares in Santiago. Rioting there caused insured losses of $2 billion. About a third of that came from property claims from a handful of large retailers.
“When you look at the United States, riot and civil disorder may generally look like a sub-US $100 million risk, although with the potential for much greater losses,” Johansmeyer said in an email to Claims Journal. “But, when you add a handful of large national or international companies with losses of more than US $100 million each, you could see a much larger industry loss begin to materialize. The large losses within the catastrophe could change the character of the overall event.”
Estimates by the same firm appeared in a MarketWatch article in June 2020. On August 10 2020, PolitiFact.com attempted to obtain firmer figures in the course of a related fact check about the economic cost of various protests in the wake of Floyd’s death.
Not only was PolitiFact unable to validate the specific figure cited in the claim to hand (that Floyd protests caused $8 billion in property damage), the site was unable to find any centralized number or credible estimate whatsoever:
As for the numbers claimed in the post, the U.S. Justice Department told us it does not have figures on officer injuries or property damage resulting from civil disturbances, and the FBI said it had no comment. There are scattered news reports that don’t entirely back up each part of the claim, and we found no official figures.
Damage caused: In late June , Fox News reported that according to insurance experts and city officials, the Floyd protests could eclipse the 1992 Los Angeles riots to become the most expensive civil disturbance in U.S. history. The 1992 riots, which followed the acquittal of four police officers in the beating of Rodney King, cost $1.4 billion in 2020 dollars, according to the report, which did not give a specific damage estimate for the Floyd protests. A spokeswoman for the Insurance Information Institute told Scripps National News that “most likely” the Floyd protest “would lead to higher losses,” but did not provide an estimate either.
To date, no estimate for cumulative property damage during the totality of Black Lives Matter protests in the year 2020 appeared to exist, and it was possible or likely no such estimate would ever be calculated, due in part to the cross-jurisdictional nature of the demonstrations.
A viral Facebook post claimed a “single gender-reveal party in California has caused more property damage than all the 2020 BLM protests combined.” As of September 9 2020, the El Dorado fire — which was definitively caused by a single gender reveal party — raged on, and costs for the blaze had not been calculated. Protests over the death of George Floyd began after his death on May 25 2020, and likewise, no estimate of property damage caused by the entirety of protests had been calculated. Insurance industry publications and other business articles (as well as a fact check) attempted to derive some sort of estimate, but none had been reached or definitively calculated.