The Slatest

A Border Agent Accidentally Started a Massive Wildfire at a Gender Reveal Party. Here’s Video of How It Happened.

In a still from the video, a viewer can see an explosion of fire and blue in a grasslands setting.
The Arizona Daily Star/YouTube

In September, a Border Patrol agent named Dennis Dickey pleaded guilty in federal court to a misdemeanor charge of causing a fire without a permit. The fire he started, known as the Sawmill Fire, burned 47,000 acres in southern Arizona in 2017 and required 800 firefighters to extinguish the blaze. In the end, more than 100 people had to evacuate their homes, and the cost of the fire and its damage came out to $8.2 million.

Now, thanks to the work of the Arizona Daily Star, which submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the U.S. Forest Service, we can watch the fire explode into existence—the result of a gender reveal party.

The video of the incident, taken by a witness and released Monday by the Forest Service, shows a target surrounded by grasslands and shrub. A shot is fired off-screen, and the target erupts into blue smoke (it’s a boy!)—and fire. The smoke dissipates, but the fire leaps outward, and soon the landscape is consumed by flames. Two figures—blacked out for privacy reasons—race across the shot in a panic. Near the end of the video, a male voice can be heard shouting, “Start packing up!”

The target contained an explosive substance called Tannerite, the Star reported, and that substance has been linked to other wildfires in the West. Winds were blowing at around 40 miles per hour, and at the time, the National Weather Service had issued a fire watch.

Under his plea deal, Dickey agreed to pay $100,000 in restitution at his sentencing and another $120,000 in monthly installments over the next 20 years. He was also sentenced to five years’ probation.