The U.S. Forest Service released this week a video showing the explosion that ignited Arizona’s 2016 Sawmill Fire, a 47,000-acre blaze that caused over $8 million in damage and took 800 firefighters an entire week to control.
The man behind the explosion, Arizona resident and U.S. Border Patrol Agent Dennis Dickey, had thrown a “gender reveal party” to celebrate the imminent birth of his son, local media reports. He had purchased an explosive target from Tannerite specifically designed for these parties—blue smoke for a boy, pink for a girl.
But the target ignited the dry grass surrounding it, and the wind quickly expanded the blaze.
Just a few seconds after the fire starts, a man can be heard yelling, “Start packing up! Start packing up!”
Dickey immediately reported the fire to law enforcement and claimed responsibility for its ignition, court documents say. He pled guilty to a misdemeanor—causing a fire without a permit—and was sentenced to five years of probation.
He will also pay in monthly installments restitution totaling $8,188,069 and will star in a public service announcement created in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Attorney’s office said in a press release.
During his sentencing, Dickey told the judge the fire “was a complete accident,” the Arizona Daily Star reported. He added: “I feel absolutely horrible about it. It was probably one of the worst days of my life.”
Tannerite is a “binary explosive target” sold as two separate components: an oxidizer like ammonium nitrate and a fuel such as aluminum or another metal. Users mix the components together and, when shot with a round travelling 2,000 feet-per-second or faster, the container explodes.
The company claims that “when mixed and used correctly, Tannerite® brand targets should not initiate a fire.”
“However,” they continue, “because of other reactive targets made with inferior raw materials that have been reported to start fires, the USFS has declared that all reactive rifle targets are forbidden on federal land when a Special Fire Order is in place.”
While the conditions surrounding Dickey’s Tannerite target don’t look ideal, the weather worked against him. The Republic reported in 2016 that strong winds and low humidity levels created the perfect environment for the Sawmill Fire to spread.