A border patrol agent has agreed to pay over $8 million in restitution more than a year after he accidentally started a 47,000-acre wildfire during a gender reveal party gone horribly wrong. Dennis Dickey, the off-duty agent, had planned to reveal the sex of his child by using a balloon filled with an explosive chemical to reveal the sex of his unborn baby last year but instead, he ended up starting a fire that took more than a week to put out.
Dubbed the Sawmill Fire, the blaze burnt through a large chunk of the grasslands in southern Arizona for more than a week in April 2017 and took over 800 firefighters to put out. Though Dickey had innocent intentions, it’s hard to say he thought this through. Shooting a rifle at a balloon full of explosive Tannerite in the middle of one of the most arid environments in the continental US is incredibly dangerous. Thanks to high winds and less rain than usual, the fire ultimately caused over eight million dollars worth of damage. Fortunately, Dickey immediately contacted the authorities and held himself accountable after realizing that the fire had gotten out of control.
“I feel absolutely horrible about it,” Dickey told the judge. “It was probably one of the worst days of my life.”
Despite Dickey calling the fire “a complete accident”, he has been charged with a misdemeanor for starting a fire without a permit, along with agreeing to pay $8,188,069 worth of restitution starting with an initial payment of $100,000. After the first payment, Dickey will then put down $500 a month for the next two decades and spend five years on probation. It’s unlikely that Dickey will actually end up paying the entire amount he owes, as his current payment plan only adds up to just about five percent of the damage cost.