Natural disasters and emergencies have been numerous in the past couple of years. The raw power of nature does what it will without regard for the best-laid schemes of mice and men. Though, sometimes, we’re responsible for the sparks that light the wildfires.
It’s been a dry, hot summer in Arizona, again, and the west coast has been battling destructive wildfires for the entire season. Life Safety Code requires that workplaces, healthcare facilities, schools, and other occupied buildings have evacuation protocol that’s routinely practiced, but wildfires the magnitude of ones we’ve seen this past summer have disrupted even the best-laid plans. When a massive wildfire comes knocking, these emergency protocols are put to the test. One wildfire in particular had a very unlikely source, one that changed a man’s life before anyone could get control of the situation.
Border Patrol Agent Dennis Dickey was going to have a baby. Naturally, he hosted a gender reveal party for friends and family. For the gender reveal, he had purchased Tannerite, which is an explosive substance activated by high-velocity projectiles, i.e. bullets. The idea was that when he shot the target, it would explode either blue or pink. Fun, right?
“Dickey had placed Tannerite, a highly explosive substance, inside the target, intending for it to detonate when shot by a high-velocity firearm bullet,” said the U.S. attorney’s office in a later statement.
When he shot the explosive target, it ended up starting a fire that was difficult to contain.
In drought conditions, even walking on dry grass can cause lasting damage to the plant and its roots. Of course, Arizona is no stranger to dry, drought conditions, and even a single spark can cause a lasting, and deadly, blaze.
Dickey called the authorities immediately, but the Arizona climate had been so dry that even with 800 firefighters working to contain the blaze, it still amassed more than $8 million in damage over a two-week span. Because he did not spark the blaze intentionally, the fire was not ruled arson.
“Dickey fired shots at the Tannerite target, ultimately causing an explosion that started a fire that spread and resulted in damage to more than 45,000 acres of land managed by the State of Arizona, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and various private landholders,” said federal officials.
In a moment that would change his life forever, he’s now looking at a plea deal that has him paying $100,000 up front and $120,000 more over 20 years. Along with those fines comes five years probation and being the face of a Forest Service PSA.
In a statement, he said he feels horrible about the whole incident. Even though it was an accident, he will be taking lifelong responsibility for a shot we’re certain he wishes he could take back.
And, for the record, we still don’t know the gender of the baby.