Dennis Dickey wishes he hadn’t chosen that particular gender reveal.
As the Arizona Daily Star reports, in April 2017, Dickey was preparing a gender reveal celebration for the new baby he and his wife were expecting. The Border Patrol agent from Arizona learned about a product called Tannerite, which erupts in pink or blue when shot with a high-velocity rifle.
Tannerite gender reveal packages are even advertised for sale online — the substance is legal, though it has been linked to wildfires in the past.
According to KGUN, Dickey made the target himself, filled it with Tannerite, and shot it with a rifle. But that’s when the gender reveal plan went south. On the day Dickey shot the target, winds were gusting at 40 mph and the Forest Service had issued a fire watch, meaning that conditions were right for a rapidly spreading forest fire.
And that’s exactly what happened. As the target exploded, it started a fire that moved faster than Dickey could have imagined. His attorney, Sean Chapman, told the Green Valley News that Dickey, “ran over to stop it, but within seconds it was 30 feet wide.”
Dickey reported the fire to authorities right away, but there was no escaping the consequences of what would become known as the Sawmill Fire.
The fire spread to the Coronado National Forest, eventually growing to 47,000 acres in size. It took about a week for 800 firefighters to put it out, and the cost of the fire is estimated to be about $8.2 million.
From the start, Dickey admitted responsibility for the fire and cooperated with authorities. Last week, he pleaded guilty to causing a fire without a permit, a misdemeanor. At his hearing, Dickey told the magistrate:
“It was a complete accident. I feel absolutely horrible about it. It was probably one of the worst days of my life.”
Dickey agreed to a sentence of five years probation and will make a public service announcement for the U.S. Forest Service about the fire. He has also agreed to pay restitution in the amount of $8,188,069.
Though he isn’t expected to lose his job as a result of the plea, complying with an order for the full restitution would have been nearly impossible for Dickey. Therefore, he has agreed to pay $100,000 immediately (borrowing from his retirement fund to get the money), then $500 per month for 20 years.
After 20 years, a judge can make a decision on what further restitution Dickey will make. If he is relieved of restitution at that time, he will have paid $220,000 rather than the full $8.2 million. Either way, it’s a very expensive gender reveal.