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Border Patrol agent sentenced for Sawmill fire

TUCSON – A U.S. Border Patrol agent was sentenced Tuesday morning for starting the Sawmill fire on state lands back in April 2017.

Dennis Dickey appeared in federal court where he was sentenced to pay $100,000 up front following $500 every month for the next 20 years.

Dickey said the fire started at his baby’s gender reveal party. A gender reveal party is a new trend where parent’s reveal the sex of their baby. News 4 Tucson spoke with Dickey’s attorney Sean Chapman after sentencing.

“He was shooting at a target which exploded. It was really hot outside,”  Chapman said. “Immediately, it turned into a fire which led into the Sawmill fire.”

That fire burned nearly 47,000 acres in the Sawmill Fire.

“There was $8 million in damage but the government correctly recognized that they could never collect that amount of money from him. So they agreed to a settlement where he would pay what is a substantial amount for him over the next 20 years, $200,000,” Chapman said. “As long as his financial circumstances don’t change for the better, that’s going to be his obligation.”

In federal court Tuesday, he apologized for starting the fire.

“He just feels awful for what he did. He accepted responsibility immediately,” Chapman said. “He called 9-11 and wants to do anything he can to pay back for some of the loss that he’s created.”

Dickey will be on probation for the next five years and has to help the government advocate on fire safety.

“He is going to make a public service announcement for the federal government,” Chapman said. “Basically encouraging people to be careful with campfires and that type of thing. So that they don’t start wildfires in the future.”

Chapman said Dickey is expected to keep his job as a Border Patrol agent but may face disciplinary action. Dickey declined to give an on-camera interview or make a statement.

Denelle Confair

Denelle Confair

Multimedia reporter for News 4 Tucson. Follow her on Facebook @DenelleConfairTV and Twitter @DenelleKVOA. Story idea? Email her at Dconfair@kvoa.com
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