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Gender-Reveal Party Sparked an $8 Million Massive Wildfire

Photograph by Twenty20

Creative and elaborate gender reveals have caught fire in recent years. Unfortunately, for one Arizona couple, their gender-reveal party literally ignited a 47,000-acre wildfire that caused almost $8.2 million in damages and required 800 firefighters to contain.

In April 2017, Dennis Dickey fired his rifle at a target filled with colored powder. The explosion was supposed to reveal whether the future baby was a girl (pink powder) or a boy (blue powder). But the biggest surprise that day wasn't the baby's gender.

The thing was, the 37-year-old off-duty Border Patrol agent had placed Tannerite, a highly explosive substance, inside the target, which was detonated by a high-velocity firearm bullet. Along with the unusually high winds and lower-than-average rainfall, the explosion caused a disastrous fire that spread rapidly. Named the Sawmill Fire, the wildfire took more than a week and firefighters from about 20 agencies to contain. There were, however, no injuries or damaged buildings reported.

According to a statement by the U.S. Attorney's Office for Arizona, Dickey immediately reported the fire to law enforcement. He pleaded guilty on Friday to a federal misdemeanor charge and agreed to a sentence of five years' probation and to make a public service announcement with the U.S. Forest Service.

The dad also agreed to pay more than $8 million in restitution, starting with a $100,000 initial payment and monthly payments after that, though it's unclear if he's expected to pay the full amount. The Arizona Daily Star reported that Dickey will pay $500 a month for the next 20 years as well (which adds up to $120,000).

Also in 2017, another couple, Ashley and Jon Sterkel in Nebraska, got into trouble with the sheriff's department when they videotaped their gender reveal, featuring an exploding target filled with light blue powder. Luckily, Sterkel only ended up with a $1,000 fine for setting off an explosive without a state permit.

These costly and dangerous celebrations are a good reminder that if you really want to plan a gender-reveal party, maybe stick to something that doesn't involve actual explosives. Doesn't anyone want cake and balloons anymore?

As for whether the Dickeys had a baby boy or a girl— well, should it really matter?

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