A gender-reveal party in Arizona on Friday went seriously wrong and caused a massive wildfire in the Coronado National Forest.
37-year-old Border Patrol Agent, Dennis Dickey, started the wildfire after he filled a target with powder that would burst either pink or blue when shot with his rifle. When filling the target Dickey added Tannerite, a substance that is highly explosive. Officials said that when he fired his rifle, the blast sent sparks in the surrounding dry brush and started the fire. He immediately tried to put it out but was unsuccessful.
According to Forest Service Special Agent Brent Robinson, Dickey immediately reported the fire to law enforcement, cooperated fully, and admitted to starting the fire.
The fire was fueled by 40 mph winds which caused the flames to move quickly over Arizona’s dry environment. The fire scorched thousands of acres of land belonging to the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.
Although no buildings were destroyed, the fire caused many people to be forced from their homes and caused more than $8 million in damages. Dickey pleaded guilty to accidentally starting a massive wildfire that tarnished 47,000 acres of Arizona’s grasslands, forcing residents from their homes, requiring 800 firefighters to extinguish the blaze, and ultimately costing authorities more than $8 million.
In his plea agreement, Dickey agreed to pay $220,000 in restitution, giving $100,000 when he is sentenced on Oct. 9 and then the rest in $500 monthly payments over the next 20 years. It remains unclear whether the agent will ultimately have to repay the full $8,188,069. He was also sentenced to five years of probation and agreed to participate in a public service announcement for the Forest Service.