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Expected Smoke, Surprise Flames at Gender-Reveal Party

Video shows start of Arizona's Sawmill Fire in 2017
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 27, 2018 9:35 AM CST

(Newser) – Blue smoke indicating Dennis Dickey would be the father to a baby boy was briefly visible. But the flames erupting at the off-duty Border Patrol agent's gender-reveal party on state land in Green Valley, Ariz., quickly stole the focus, per the Arizona Daily Star. A man warned those gathered in the Santa Rita Mountain foothills to prepare to leave the grassy area seconds after Dickey used a high-velocity firearm to shoot a target filled with explosive Tannerite and colored powder, as seen in a newly released video from April 23, 2017—the day Dickey calls "probably one of the worst days of my life." The so-called Sawmill Fire eventually spread to become a 47,000-acre wildfire that caused $8 million in damage, though thankfully no injuries. Per the Arizona Republic, some 100 people were forced from their homes, however, as flames moved into the Coronado National Forest and beyond.

Dickey initially agreed to pay $8.1 million in restitution, but as that would be "like getting blood from a stone," per his attorney, he'll now make an initial payment of $100,000, then monthly payments of $500 for 20 years to help cover a $220,000 penalty after pleading guilty to a federal misdemeanor charge of causing a fire without a permit, per the Star. Authorities say Dickey—also sentenced to five years' probation—immediately reported the fire, admitted to starting it, and cooperated with an investigation. The video of the incident, released Monday by the US Forest Service on a request from the Star, conceals the identities of two people who appear on camera, with an official citing privacy protection. (A Georgia man made the poor decision to shoot at a lawn mower filled with Tannerite.)

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