Gender reveal ends in large explosion; no injuries reported

Firefighters were called to the site of a gender reveal in Waukee, Iowa, when neighbors reported hearing an explosion.
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By Kerry Breen

A planned gender reveal in Waukee, Iowa ended in a large explosion that had multiple neighbors calling emergency services on Sunday evening.

While nobody was injured in the blast, at least three different families called the Waukee Fire Department.

"As we were responding, we saw a small plume of smoke, with no color," Tommie Tysdal, the captain of the fire department, told TODAY. "As we rounded the corner, we saw lots of cars on the street and neighbors out front."

The explosion was set off on a vacant lot just outside the city limits of Waukee, according to Tysdal. The property owner has not been publicly named, but was involved in the reveal.

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According to local station KCCI Des Moines, the blast could be heard from up to two miles away, but fire department captain Tommie Tysdal was unable to confirm that detail for TODAY. He said that there were about 20 people attending the gender reveal itself, and while the property owner who set off the explosion warned some neighbors in advance, the boom was louder than it was intended to be.

"They were there all day, celebrating," Tysdal explained. "The boom was bigger than they anticipated and resulted in at least three phone calls... The property owner was very apologetic. He clearly did not mean for it to be that big and did not intend for us to be summoned."

Tysdal told TODAY that because the explosion happened outside the city limits, in an "unincorporated part of Dallas County," no crime had been committed.

"The kit was legal," he said. "If it was used inside city limits, it would have been illegal, but because it was outside city limits, from a fire code perspective, it was totally legal."

The explosion came just a day after a gender reveal in Knoxville, Iowa ended in death when a piece of debris from an explosion struck a woman. The woman, who has not been named publicly, was pronounced dead at the scene.

These aren't the first gender reveals to end in tragedy: In 2018, a man shot at a target that contained a highly explosive substance. Instead of releasing a pink or blue cloud as intended, the target burst into flames and started a fire that became known as the Sawmill Fire, which burned 47,000 acres and caused more than $8 million in damages.

In less severe instances, parents have been injured by smoke poppers intended to release colored smoke, or props have gotten lost, spoiling the surprise.

Even the "creator" of gender reveals, Jenna Karvunidis, has spoken out about how the reveals have gotten too chaotic.

"...People are burning down forests and blowing up cars to shout what is essentially a very boring detail," she told TODAY. "Let's do 'name reveal' parties or 'Surprise, I'm pregnant!' parties. There are a million ways to celebrate your life that don't involve putting anyone in danger."