Border Agent Starts 47,000-Acre Wildfire By Shooting Exploding Target at Gender Reveal Party

A Tucson, Arizona Border Patrol agent must pay $220,000 in fines after starting last year's Sawmill Fire during a gender reveal party.

Dennis Dickey, 37, who plead guilty to a misdeanor federal charge Friday, is set for five years probation and has agreed to pay $220,000 in installments after he shot a target containing the explosive substance, Tannerite, last year at a gender reveal celebration. The April 2017 Sawmill Fire required around 800 firefighters, forced hundreds of people from their homes and burned more than 45,000 acres of land along Arizona's Highway 83. The cost of fighting it was more than $8 million. 

Federal prosecutors had charged the off-duty U.S. Border Patrol agent with a misdmeanor of starting a fire without a permit, KOLD-TV first reported. Dickey and his wife were holding a gender reveal party last year when he shot a "high-velocity firearm" at a target intended to explode with either a blue or pink powder.

But instead of simply revealing the gender of their baby to family and friends, the fire immediately caught in the dry conditions and began spreading rapidly, U.S. Forest Service agents told federal prosecutors. 

The explosive gender reveal party stunt was recorded by several attendees.

RTS195GI A Tucscon, Arizona Border Patrol agent must pay $8.2 million in fines after starting last year's Sawmill Fire during a gender reveal party. Reuters | Handout

“Dickey immediately reported the fire to law enforcement, cooperated, and admitted that he started the fire,” Forest Service Special Agent Brent Robinson wrote in the September affidavit. The target contained Tannerite, which is a legal but explosive compund that has been tied to several major wildires, the affidavit added.

Under Dickey's plea agreement, he will pay an up-front restitution fine of $100,000 during his October 9 sentencing. And then he is set to pay another $120,000 in monthly installments of $500 over the course of the next two decades. Dickey is also set to be sentenced to 5 years of probation. 

Dickey has repeatedly told the judge the entire incident and sparking of the wildire was "a complete accident," and has expressed remorse.

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