TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The man who started the Sawmill Fire last year will face years of probation and a huge fine.
Federal prosecutors said Dennis Dickey, of Tucson, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of starting a fire without a permit on Friday, Sept. 28.
An explosive material was shot with a firearm, and sparks landing in surrounding dry grass ignited instantly. This serves to demonstrate that volatile conditions can be present during any time of the year and a wildfire can be ignited from any spark introduced to receptive fuel.
Dickey will be on probation for five years and have to make a public service announcement with the U.S. Forest Service.
He also agreed to pay $8.2 million in restitution. Dickey will make an initial payment of $100,000 and monthly payments after that.
Dickey, a Border Patrol agent, was off duty when he was shooting at an exploding target near Green Valley in April 2017.
The target caused a blaze that quickly grew thanks to the dry conditions and strong winds. The Sawmill Fire burned more than 45,000 acres and forced hundreds of people to evacuate their homes.
Dickey immediately called authorities, reported the fire and admitted to causing it.