The Arizona man unintentionally started a wildfire in April 2017 that caused more than $8 million in damages.

By Joelle Goldstein
October 02, 2018 12:39 AM
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Credit: A.E. Araiza/Arizona Daily Star via AP

An Arizona Border Patrol agent has admitted to starting a wildfire during his child’s sex reveal party last year.

On Friday, Dennis Dickey, 37, pled guilty to a misdemeanor federal charge of causing a fire without a permit, according to a release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Dickey agreed to pay restitution totaling $8,188,069, the release states, however, according to a number of local outlets, the final figure is likely to be closer to $220,000.

Dickey will pay $100,000 when he is sentenced Oct. 9 and another $120,000 in monthly installments of $500 for the next 20 years, reports the Arizona Daily Star.

Dickey’s appearance in federal court comes almost two years after he accidentally started a massive wildfire near Green Valley, which is approximately 25 miles outside of Tucson.

In April 2017, Dickey was throwing a party for his pregnant wife to reveal the sex of their baby, when he shot a “high-velocity firearm” at a target, expecting a blue or pink powder to release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Instead, the target — which contained Tannerite, an explosive substance designed to detonate after contact with such a firearm — exploded, sparking the wildfire that became known as the Sawmill Fire which damaged more than 45,000 acres.

Credit: Ron Medvescek/Arizona Daily Star via AP

“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 obtained by the local Arizona publication. The affidavit also explained that while Tannerite is a legal substance, it has been tied to several major wildfires.

Approximately 242 total personnel were called to action to help manage to the Sawmill Fire, which caused more than $8 million in damages.

According to the Arizona Daily Star, Dickey told U.S. Magistrate Judge Leslie A. Bowman in court that the wildfires were “a complete accident.”

“I feel absolutely horrible about it,” he said on Friday. “It was probably one of the worst days of my life.”

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His attorney Sean Chapman told the local publication that his client will likely borrow from his retirement fund to pay the fee due at sentencing. Chapman said paying the full amount at once would be “like getting blood from a stone” because it would be difficult to “come up with that much money.”

There has been no confirmation as to whether Dickey will maintain his position as a Border Patrol agent, but Chapman said that he does not believe his client will lose his job since the fire was not intentional and therefore, he cannot be charged with arson.

Chapman and representatives for the U.S. Border Patrol did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

As part of the plea agreement, Dickey agreed to a sentence of five years’ probation, and to make a public service announcement with the U.S. Forest Service.

Despite the intensity and forced evacuation for nearby households, no injuries were reported and no buildings were affected during the blaze.