A Border Patrol agent threw a gender-reveal party. He ended up starting a 47,000-acre wildfire

Written by on October 2, 2018

In April 2017, the Sawmill Fire swept across the dry grasslands of southern Arizona, rapidly burning a charred path through open rangelands and engulfing the mesquite-covered foothills of the Santa Rita Mountains. The blaze ultimately spread over 47,000 acres of land, forcing residents to evacuate the area as roughly 800 firefighters fought to get it under control.

The cause? A gender-reveal party gone horribly wrong.

Dennis Dickey, an off-duty Border Patrol agent, was celebrating his wife’s pregnancy at a party near Green Valley, Ariz., on April 23, 2017, his attorney told the Arizona Daily Star on Friday. In preparation, he had filled a target with colored powder. When it exploded, it would reveal their future child’s sex: pink for a girl or blue for a boy.

The target also contained Tannerite, a legal but highly explosive substance, U.S. Forest Service special agent Brent Robinson wrote in an affidavit filed in federal court on Sept. 20. When Dickey, now 37, fired his rifle at the target, the ensuing explosion sparked a fire that quickly spread through the dry brush, spurred on by unusually high winds and lower-than-average rainfall. By the time it was fully contained over a week later, the fire had done $8 million worth of damage.

Dickey immediately reported the fire to law enforcement and admitted he had been responsible for starting it, the affidavit says. He was charged with violating U.S. Forest Service regulations by causing a fire without a permit, a misdemeanor offense. On Friday, the U.S. attorney’s office in Arizona announced that Dickey had pleaded guilty.

Dickey and his attorney, Sean Chapman, couldn’t be reached late Sunday night to confirm whether the baby was a boy or a girl.

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