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Sawmill Fire video: Footage shows moment explosive gender reveal sparked Arizona wildfire

Video shows gender reveal sparking AZ wildfire
Posted at 11:52 AM, Nov 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-27 19:30:38-05

Newly-released video shows the moment an explosive gender-reveal sparked a 47,000-acre wildfire in southern Arizona back in 2017.

The Sawmill Fire erupted near Green Valley on April 23, 2017, when off-duty U.S. Border Patrol agent Dennis Dickey shot a target with his high-powered rifle so that it would explode in pink or blue powder, according to a previous release from the U.S. Attorney's office.

Video obtained Monday by the Arizona Daily Star shows the moment the explosion went off, sending sparks into the air and flames spreading just seconds later. Watch the video in the player below.

To pull off the reveal, Dickey made the target himself and filled it with Tannerite, a legal but highly explosive substance. 

The target and Tannerite worked, but not in the way the 37-year-old Tucson resident imagined. The shot caused an explosion that ignited the Sawmill Fire and the wildfire spread to Coronado National Forest. Dry conditions at the time also exacerbated the spreading of the fire, which grew to about 47,000 acres in size and cost an estimated $8 million in damage. 

Exploding targets are prohibited on the Coronado National Forest, and any type of recreational target shooting isn't allowed on state land where the fire started, officials said.

Land management agencies have seen wildfires spark from lightning, abandoned campfires, chainsaws, a horse's hoof clipping a rock, tow chains dragging along the road, cigarette butts and welding outside on a windy day.

"We pass that message on all the time -- one spark is all it takes, one spark is all it takes," said Tiffany Davila, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management. "It's true. When you see that video, you see how quickly the grasses catch on fire and how quickly it moves."

Dickey immediately reported the fire to law enforcement, cooperated with the investigation and admitted that he started the blaze. He also repeatedly told the judge the incident was "a complete accident."

He pleaded guilty in October 2018 to a misdemeanor violation for starting a fire without a permit and made a plea agreement, agreeing to a sentence of five years of probation and to making a public service announcement with the U.S. Forest Service. He also has to pay a restitution totaling $8,188,069 with an initial payment of $100,000 and monthly payments of $500.