Dad sentenced for starting 47,000-acre wildfire at baby's gender reveal party

The element of surprise is an important aspect of gender reveal parties - as long as the surprise only involves learning the sex of the unborn baby and not a 47,000-acre wildfire, like what a gender reveal party in Tucson, Arizona caused.

Off-duty Border Patrol agent Dennis Dickey, 37, pleaded guilty to the misdemeanour charge of causing a fire without a permit, as reported by Arizona Daily Star last Friday, Sept 28. He was asked by a federal court on the same day to pay US$220,000 (around S$300,000) in restitution alongside serving five years of probation for the wildfire that occurred out of his actions during the gender reveal party he held in April 2017.

The wildfire began after Dickey shot a target containing either blue (for a boy) or pink (for a girl) powder. The said target apparently did not just contain the answer to their baby's sex; it also has Tannerite, an explosive substance which detonates when shot and is linked to wildfires.

The National Weather Service had to issue a fire watch - a warning given to alert people of the possibility of a wildfire - as winds were at 40 miles per hour at the time he shot the combustible target. The fire, which began at Madera Canyon, spread across the Santa Rita Mountains foothills, a Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management area. The state route Arizona 83 was also forced to shut down because of the incident.

The wildfire caused by the gender reveal party lasted for about a week. It also incurred around US$8.2 million in damages, the report stated. Luckily, it did not cause injuries or destroyed buildings, although homeowners were evacuated to ensure their safety.

Dickey immediately reported the incident. He also admitted to the authorities that he was the perpetrator.

The federal court asked him to pay US$100,000, which he borrowed from his retirement plan, on Oct 9. The remaining US$120,000 , meanwhile, will be paid in 20 years by means of US$500 monthly installments.

"It was a complete accident," Dickey told US Magistrate Judge Leslie A. Bowman, the report said. "I feel absolutely horrible about it. It was probably one of the worst days of my life."

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