Dennis Dickey is the border patrol agent in Tucson, Arizona who admitted to starting a massive forest fire — by accident. The Sawmill Fire burned 45,000 acres and caused $8 million worth of damage back in April 2017. Dickey says he started the fire as a celebration gone wrong, during the gender-reveal party that he and his wife threw.
Here’s what you need to know about Dennis Dickey:
1. Dickey Started the Fire When He Fired a Rifle at Explosive Chemicals
The trouble all started when Dickey and his wife decided to throw a gender reveal party. He and his wife had planned out a novel way to let their guests know the gender of their upcoming baby: Dickey was supposed to fire a rifle at a target which would emit either blue or pink powder.
Dickey filled the target with Tannerite, a highly explosive substance which is legal but very powerful. When he shot at, and hit, the target, he caused an explosion which ultimately set off a massive forest fire.
On November 26, the Arizona Star obtained a shocking video which revealed the very moment when the fire got started. You can watch the video, which shows the explosion that Dickey caused above, or you can see it here.
2. Dickey May Have to Pay Back Over Eight Million Dollars
As part of his plea agreement, Dickey will be put on probation for five years. He will also make a public service announcement about forest fires.
He has also agreed to pay the state back for damages caused by the fire which he accidentally started. It’s not completely clear how much money Dickey will have to pay back. The Arizona District Attorney’s office says Dickey will pay back a total of $8,188,069. Dickey will make a down payment of $100,000. After that, he will pay off the debt in monthly installments. But local media said he was going to pay much less, as little as $220,000.
3. Dickey Said the Day He Started the Fire Was the ‘Worst’ in His Life
Dickey, 37, came forward right away to let authorities know that he had sparked the fire which burned 45,000 acres and caused $8 million worth of damage. Since he apparently caused the fire by accident, Dickey has not been charged with arson; he agreed to five years of probation and, according to a press release from the Arizona District Attorney, he will also pay the state back for the damages caused by the fire.
Dickey has called the day he started the fire one of the worst days of his life. “I feel absolutely horrible about it. It was probably one of the worst days of my life,” he said.
4. Dickey Has Kept His Job as a Border Agent
Dickey will not serve any jail time, under the terms of his plea deal. He is reportedly keeping his job as a border patrol agent.
Dickey started the fire when he and his wife threw a gender reveal party. He had filled a target with Tannerite, a highly explosive, but legal, substance which he had combined with packets of colorful powder. The idea was that Dickey would shoot at the target and, once the target was hit, either pink or blue powder would come out, thus revealing the gender of Dickey’s unborn child.
But unfortunately, the explosion caused a fire which the day’s heavy winds spread. Firefighters battled the flames for more than a week before it was fully extinguished.
5. Tannerite Sells a Gender-Reveal Kit for Just $85
Tannerite is the brand-name explosive which, when shot with a high-powered rifle, can cause dramatic explosions. It’s also the substance Dickey used in his gender-reveal party, creating the disastrous explosion that led to the Sawmill Fire.
Tannerite sells a gender reveal package for just $85. You can buy it online, here.
The online Tannerite page warns, “some counties in the State of California may require an explosive or destructive device permit for use of binary rifle targets.” There is no mention of Arizona.