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Border Patrol agent pleads guilty to starting massive wildfire after gender-reveal party stunt gone awry

October 2, 2018  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Border Patrol agent pleads guilty to starting massive wildfire after gender-reveal party stunt gone awry

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A Border Patrol agent admitted to inadvertently started a 47,000-acre wildfire that took close to 800 firefighters to extinguish following a celebration for his wife’s pregnancy.

On Friday, 37-year-old Dennis Dickey, of Tucson, pleaded guilty to starting the Sawmill Fire, which caused over $8 million worth of destruction in April 2017 when the off-duty agent shot a target with Tannerite, a legal but highly explosive material designed to explode when shot by a high-velocity firearm.

The target was part of the man’s celebration to reveal the gender of the couple’s baby and had blue powder for a boy and pink powder for a girl, Dickey’s lawyer, Sean Chapman, said to the Arizona Daily Star.

“It was an accident,” Dickey said to a judge Friday. “I feel horrible about it. It was one of the worst days of my life.”

As part of Dickey’s plea deal, he will pay $100,000 in restitution when he is sentenced on October 9th, KGUN9 reported.

He was also ordered to pay monthly $500 installments for the next twenty years and be sentenced to complete five years of probation

Dickey, who is anticipated retaining his post as a Border Patrol agent, will take from his retirement fund to pay the restitution, according to the attorney, who added that ordering Dickey to repay $8.2 million to cover the losses due to the fire would have been like “getting blood from a stone.”

Dickey confessed to firing the shots in April 2017 that ignited the blaze on state-owned land that damaged over 45,000 acres, including portions of the Coronado National Forest.

Winds were gusting at approximately 40 mph at the time and the National Weather Service had declared a fire watch. No injuries were reported from the blaze, but hundreds of people were forced to evacuate their homes.

Dickey, who entered a guilty plea to a misdemeanor violation of U.S. Forest Service regulations, immediately reported the fire to police and cooperated with authorities.

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