A gender-reveal party gone wrong began an April 2017 fire in southern Arizona that burned over 47,000 acres and cost roughly $8 million, The Arizona Daily Star reports.
Border Patrol agent Dennis Dickey pleaded guilty in federal court to a misdemeanor crime Friday. He has agreed to pay roughly $8 million in restitution and participate in a public service announcement by the U.S. Forest Service on the Sawmill Fire. Dickey was placed on probation for five years, according to a Department of Justice (DOJ) press release.
Dickey, according to the report, had a target packed with colored powder for the gender reveal and Tannerite, a legal but highly explosive substance. Dickey shot the target and ignited the Tannerite, sending sparks raining down and igniting a brush fire, the DOJ released stated. High winds quickly whipped the fire out of control.
“It was a complete accident,” Dickey told U.S. Magistrate Judge Leslie A. Bowman in court Friday, according to the Daily Star. “I feel absolutely horrible about it. It was probably one of the worst days of my life.”
Dickey immediately reported the wildfire — later dubbed the Sawmill Fire. Nearly 800 firefighters spent about a week fighting the Sawmill Fire. No structures or people were harmed, though some families were evacuated and hundreds more were told to prepare to evacuate, if necessary.
Wildfires cost the U.S. more than $2 billion by September 2017, setting a new record of wildfire suppression spending. The cost of wildfires has been increasing for years as more people decide to build homes and live in fire-prone areas, and environmental regulations stifle active land management that would clear fuel from places in danger of fires. (RELATED: Decades Of Mismanagement Turned US Forests Into ‘Slow-Motion Time Bombs’)
Some have attempted to connect the increase in wildfires with climate change, blaming warmer temperatures and inclement weather for igniting and contributing to severe wildfires.
An August study on wildfires in California found the vast majority of wildfires in the past century — 95 percent — were caused by humans, like the gender-reveal party fire in Arizona.
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