Way Too Lit: Gender Reveal Party Sparks 47,000-Acre Wildfire

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!”

SEE ALSO: Boy Fatally Wounded, Four Arrested Following Tannerite Stunt Gone Wrong

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.

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About the author: Jordan Michaels has been reviewing firearm-related products for over six years and enjoying them for much longer. With family in Canada, he’s seen first hand how quickly the right to self-defense can be stripped from law-abiding citizens. He escaped that statist paradise at a young age, married a sixth-generation Texan, and currently lives in Tyler. Got a hot tip? Send him an email at jordan@gunsamerica.com.

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  • LJ December 3, 2018, 8:56 pm

    Oops …

  • Michael M December 1, 2018, 10:22 pm

    Oh gee… shoot an exploding target in a dry scrub brush area. What could possibly go wrong? And why didn’t mister rocket scientist and his friends try to smother the fire before it really started to spread. Not even a halfhearted attempt.

  • AJ November 30, 2018, 9:23 pm

    Um… I’ve shot tannerite targets and never had any flame up issues then again I used it correctly.. I’m guessing this was either that this guy packed a literal shit ton of tannerite into that box, or it was a bullshit set up done with HME..

    Interesting that tannerite has now been brought up twice in the news.. as the Vegas shooter apparently had a shit ton in his trunk. Willing to be it’ll be the next thing they try to ban now.

  • Johnny November 30, 2018, 2:40 pm

    His Surname… Says it All.

  • Robert November 30, 2018, 12:00 pm

    What ever happened to cigars?

  • Tommygun851 November 30, 2018, 11:53 am

    Why are you people slamming this guy? Unless there were warnings on product box saying that it could start a fire, then it’s the company that made the tannerite that should be on the hook! He might have confessed to something he didn’t do. He didn’t start the fire, the tannerite did! He should have done what he was supposed to do. Shut up and get a competent lawyer!

    • Al November 30, 2018, 1:48 pm

      I disagree, I knew when they first came out that fire was a strong possibility, it’s basic Chemistry learned in High School.
      He was foolish, plain and simple.

    • Brian p December 1, 2018, 9:23 am

      That’s like people saying some psycho didn’t shoot someone, the gun did. They’re all just objects, the people using them(guns, cars, tannerite in this case) are to blame for whatever they do by using them

  • alex November 30, 2018, 11:36 am

    this guy is a special kind of asshole.

  • FirstStateMark November 30, 2018, 11:32 am

    Momma Gump says “Stupid is as stupid does”

  • A November 30, 2018, 10:49 am

    Really? This doesn’t sound the least suspicious to anybody else? What I see here is more gender bashing propaganda + gun control + giving excuses to cover up the purposely government controlled fires. This is bull shit and defies all logic. If anybody here has shot tannerite you would know how non-flammable this stuff is. Sure you can ignite something… if it has an accelerant, which is the only way to achieve the effect being shown here. Otherwise this binary chemical explosion (aluminum oxide + ammonium nitrate and perchlorate) displaces the air around it making it hard for anything to oxidize and ignite beyond the explosion. And let’s add the fact that this was being monitored, humans and first responders are able to subdue small fires, which this would have been for a good amount of time, before it got so out of hand. THIS IS NONSENSE. More made up news.

  • hillhunter November 30, 2018, 10:26 am

    wonder if they verified he didn’t fire a type of tracer round? border patrol has access to tracer ammo and if he used his service rifle (or a rifle chambered in 556) he may have used a tracer round to increase the wow factor. b/c like others have stated, i’ve never seen tannerite burn- anything (but i still wouldn’t use it on a dry day)

  • ~ Occams November 30, 2018, 9:57 am

    With what’s coming down the pike’, I wouldn’t even CONSIDER having a kid. But them, Amerikans really aren’t very bright nor aware.

  • mikeM November 30, 2018, 9:42 am


  • Greg November 30, 2018, 9:39 am

    I, like another commenter, wonder what the monthly amount is that this idiot will pay. I can’t believe this clown did not serve prison time. The expense and loss of wildlife……….very, very sad! I hope his newborn will find out what kind of father he really is. Sorry, can’t buy the excuse this was an accident…..plain stupidity…..

  • Zupglick November 30, 2018, 9:23 am

    “Hey Bubba, watch this!” We have all done stupid s__t.

  • Mark Searcy November 30, 2018, 8:53 am

    I have shoot the Tannerite product and saw no flames,So how does a product that has no flames cause a fire? If it did some one added something to the product.

  • John November 30, 2018, 8:20 am

    This guy was a complete idiot. He might as well have shot it inside his house.

  • Dr Motown November 30, 2018, 8:05 am

    Starts “packing up” and running away from the fire he caused….was he trained by Sheriff Israel in Broward County?

  • JOHN LAKEY November 30, 2018, 6:38 am

    Ignorance is a lifestyle choice.

  • Adam November 30, 2018, 6:15 am

    I’m sure lots will try to Armchair QB this one. I’m astonished at how quickly that fire spread in a matter of seconds, as I’m sure they were too. I do have a question, what does a monthly installment on 8.18 mil look like on a border patrol paycheck?

  • Government Agents November 30, 2018, 3:57 am

    So I just want to point out that an agent of the government that people continue to believe should have all the guns is the one that caused this.

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