The video of Dennis Dickey accidentally starting the Arizona wildfire last year has been released by the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

By Joelle Goldstein
November 27, 2018 06:55 PM
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Credit: USDA

The video of an Arizona Border Patrol agent accidentally starting a wildfire during his unborn baby’s sex reveal party last year has finally been released by the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

The clip captures the exact moment that Dennis Dickey, 37, shot a “high-velocity firearm” at a target during the celebration, which is commonly referred to as a gender reveal, for his then-pregnant wife in April 2017.

Instead of just releasing a blue or pink powder, Dickey caused a giant explosion and massive wildfire. Small portions of blue powder, however, can actually be seen in the sky before the flames engulf it.

Although the people in the video were blacked out, a man can be heard urgently yelling, “Start packing up!” as the flames gain strength. It appears that the camera was sitting on a tripod closer to the fire to record the moment before the unexpected explosion.

Officials from the U.S. Attorney’s Office explained that the target contained Tannerite, an explosive substance designed to detonate after contact with such a firearm, and sparked the Sawmill Fire, as it came to be known, which damaged more than 45,000 acres.

“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 Arizona Daily Star. 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 fire near Green Valley, which is about 25 miles outside of Tucson. Overall, it caused more than $8 million in damages.

The wildfire after the explosion
| Credit: USDA

Almost two years after accidentally starting the fire, Dickey appeared in federal court in October, where he 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.

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

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

According to the local outlet, 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 in October. “It was probably one of the worst days of my life.”

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At the time, his attorney Sean Chapman told the local publication that his client would 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.

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.