Border Patrol agent pleads guilty to starting 46,000-acre fire with exploding target

A Border Patrol agent pleaded guilty Friday to starting the Sawmill Fire that burned 46,000 acres southeast of Tucson, Arizona in 2017. Dennis Dickey was holding an off duty party to celebrate his wife’s pregnancy at which the gender of his baby was revealed. On April 23 he mixed colored powder into a Tannerite exploding target which would show blue or pink smoke when shot with a rifle, according to his attorney, Sean Chapman, as reported by the Arizona Daily Star. The target exploded as planned and started what became the Sawmill Fire. A witness recorded a video of the explosion.

A news release from the U.S. attorney’s office says Agent Dickey will make an initial payment of $100,000, then make monthly payments after that. According to the Arizona Daily Star and the Green Valley News, he agreed in court to pay $500 a month for the next 20 years, which adds up to $120,000, for a total of $220,000. He also will be sentenced to 5 years of probation and agreed to participate in a public service announcement with the U.S. Forest Service concerning the cause of the Sawmill fire.

The off-duty agent could not be charged with arson since it was not a willful act. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of causing a fire without a permit, which may allow him to keep his job as a Border Patrol Agent.

Agent Dickey said he attempted to put out the fire but when that failed, he reported it. At one point during the next week at least 799 firefighters were working to put out the fire, which ran up costs of approximately $8.2 million according to the May 5, 2017 national Situation Report.

satellite map Sawmill Fire Arizona
A satellite photographed the darkened outline of the Sawmill Fire east of Green Valley, Arizona on April 26, 2017. The red dots represent heat.

On April 23, 2017, the day the fire started, the Hopkins weather station not far from where the fire began near Madera Canyon, recorded a high temperature of 80 degrees, 11 mph WSW winds of 11 mph gusting to 25, and 6 percent relative humidity. The weather station is at 7,100 feet and the location of the party where the fire started is most likely around 4,000 feet. If correct, this would put the temperature at the fire origin between 90 and 100 degrees.

In court, Agent Dickey told the judge, “It was a complete accident”.

Exploding targets consist of two ingredients that when mixed by the end user explode when shot by a high-velocity projectile. They have caused many fires since they became more popular in recent years, have been banned in some areas, and caused the death of one person. In June, 2013 a man attending a bachelor-bachelorette party in Minnesota was killed after shrapnel from the device struck him in the abdomen. The Missoulian reported that several years ago a woman in Ohio had her hand nearly blown off while taking a cellphone video of a man firing at an exploding target placed in a refrigerator about 150 feet away. In Georgia in 2016 David Pressley’s leg was blown off by an exploding target that he placed in a lawn mower.

After the ingredients are combined, the compound is illegal to transport and is classified as an explosive by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and is subject to the regulatory requirements in 27 CFR, Part 555.

Man faces charges for starting wildfire with exploding target in Colorado

These dangerous devices are banned in many areas and have started many fires in the United States

Above: Firefighters suppress a fire started by a person shooting at an exploding target southeast of Eagle, Colorado June 9, 2018. Photo by Eagle River Fire Protection District.

A man has been charged with 4th Degree Arson and Reckless Endangerment for allegedly starting a fire at an unofficial shooting range near Minturn southeast of Eagle, Colorado on June 9.

According to the Eagle County Sheriff’s office the fire was started by the use of an exploding target.

Thanks to green vegetation at the scene and the efforts of firefighters, the fire was suppressed while it was still fairly small. Most of the state of Colorado was under a Red Flag Warning Saturday. On the same day the Boco Fire burned about 400 acres a few miles away.

Exploding targets are known to have started numerous fires. In 2017 an off-duty Border Patrol agent shooting at an exploding target started what became the 46,000-acre Sawmill Fire south of Tucson, Arizona which cost at least $5 million to fight.

Exploding targets consist of two ingredients that when mixed by the end user create an explosion if shot by a high-velocity projectile. They have been banned in some areas, and in June, 2013 a man attending a bachelor-bachelorette party in Minnesota was killed after shrapnel from the device struck him in the abdomen causing his death. The Missoulian reported that several years ago a woman in Ohio had her hand nearly blown off while taking a cellphone video of a man firing at an exploding target placed in a refrigerator about 150 feet away.

After the ingredients are combined, the compound is illegal to transport and is classified as an explosive by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and is subject to the regulatory requirements in 27 CFR, Part 555.

Articles on Wildfire Today tagged exploding targets.

Off duty Border Patrol agent connected to origin of 46,000-acre Sawmill Fire

(Updated at 1:15 p.m. MDT April 28, 2017)

The U.S. Border Patrol has confirmed that one of their off duty agents is being investigated in the cause of the Sawmill Fire that has burned over 46,000 acres 23 miles southeast of Tucson, Arizona. In an email to several media outlets the public affairs office of the agency wrote:

We are aware that the Sawmill Fire investigation involves an off-duty Tucson Sector Border Patrol agent. The agent was involved in recreational shooting and immediately reported the fire after it begun. All questions regarding the investigation should be directed to the state fire agency.

 

Sawmill Fire
Firefighters conduct burnout operations On the Sawmill Fire along Empire Ranch Road on April 26, 2017. Inciweb photo.

The Green Valley News reported earlier that multiple sources they spoke with said a recreational shooter using exploding targets started what became the Sawmill Fire. Those reports also said the shooter tried to put it out, but when that failed, he notified authorities.

Exploding targets are known to have started numerous fires and are banned many areas.

On Thursday resources assigned to the Sawmill Fire included 799 personnel, 16 hand crews, 67 engines, and 5 helicopters. The suppression cost to date was $3 million.

Articles on Wildfire Today tagged exploding targets.

Sources report shooter with exploding targets started the 40,000-acre Sawmill Fire

The Green Valley News is reporting that several sources they spoke with said a target shooter using exploding targets started what became the Sawmill Fire 8 miles east of Green Valley, Arizona. The shooter reportedly tried to put out the fire, but after he failed he called to report it. The officials in charge of suppressing the fire have not confirmed what caused it.

As of Thursday April 27 the fire has burned approximately 40,000 acres and required the evacuation of several areas. The Green Valley News reported that approximately $1.6 million had been spent to suppress the fire as of Wednesday afternoon.

Exploding targets consist of two ingredients that when mixed by the end user create an explosive when shot by a high-velocity projectile. They have caused many fires since they became more popular in recent years, have been banned in some areas, and caused the death of one person. In June, 2013 a man attending a bachelor-bachelorette party in Minnesota was killed after shrapnel from the device struck him in the abdomen causing his death. The Missoulian reported that several years ago a woman in Ohio had her hand nearly blown off while taking a cellphone video of a man firing at an exploding target placed in a refrigerator about 150 feet away.

After the ingredients are combined, the compound is illegal to transport and is classified as an explosive by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and is subject to the regulatory requirements in 27 CFR, Part 555.

Articles on Wildfire Today tagged exploding targets.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Carl.

Three fire trucks damaged while fighting fire started by exploding targets

Shooters using exploding targets start 160-acre fire near Salina, Kansas.

exploding target
File photo of exploding target. Photo courtesy of Minnesota DNR.

A sheriff’s office spokesperson said the people who started a 160-acre fire using exploding targets did nothing illegal, according to the Salina Journal, in spite of the fact that it took firefighters from four fire districts to suppress the fire which threatened homes and damaged fence posts and three fire trucks.

Not everyone who starts wildfires with exploding targets gets a free pass from law enforcement. For example, Tristan C. Olson, of Missoula and Caitlin E. Hoover, of Stevensville, Montana were ordered to pay $9,450 in restitution after starting a fire that burned 50 acres east of Florence, Montana in 2014.

Apparently exploding targets are popular in Kansas. After numerous reports over the last week of two explosions near Wichita, KWCH news tracked down the source to five pounds of powder from explosive targets.

Exploding targets consist of two ingredients that when mixed by the end user create an explosive when shot by a high-velocity projectile. They have caused many fires since they became more popular in recent years, have been banned in some areas, and caused the death of one person. In June, 2013 a man attending a bachelor-bachelorette party in Minnesota was killed after shrapnel from the device struck him in the abdomen causing his death. The Missoulian reported that two years ago a woman in Ohio had her hand nearly blown off while taking a cellphone video of a man firing at an exploding target placed in a refrigerator about 150 feet away.