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Press Release

Off-Duty Border Patrol Agent Pleads Guilty To Starting 2017 Sawmill Fire and Agrees To Pay More Than $8 Million in Restitution

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Arizona

     TUCSON, Ariz. – Today, Dennis Dickey, 37, of Tucson, Ariz., pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor violation of U.S. Forest Service regulations for igniting the Sawmill Fire, which caused more than $8 million worth of damage in April 2017.  The Court scheduled a sentencing hearing for October 9, 2018.

     On April 23, 2017, near Green Valley, Ariz., U.S. Border Patrol Agent Dickey, who was off-duty at the time, ignited a fire that spread to Coronado National Forest, federal land administered by the U.S. Forest Service. This fire was referred to as the “Sawmill Fire.”  Dickey started the fire by shooting a rifle at a target.  Dickey had placed Tannerite, a highly explosive substance, inside the target, intending for it to detonate when shot by a high-velocity firearm bullet.  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.  Dickey immediately reported the fire to law enforcement, cooperated, and admitted that he started the fire. The total losses attributable to the fire, including suppression costs and damage to land and landholdings, totaled more than $8 million.

    In his plea agreement, Dickey agreed to a sentence of five years’ probation, and to make a public service announcement with the U.S. Forest Service concerning the cause of the Sawmill fire.  Dickey agreed to pay restitution totaling $8,188,069.  Dickey also agreed to make an initial payment of $100,000 toward the restitution judgment and monthly payments thereafter.       

     The investigation in this case was conducted by the U.S. Forest Service. The prosecution was handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona, Tucson.


CASE NUMBER:                18-MJ-03295-DTF

RELEASE NUMBER:           2018-123_Dickey


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Updated September 28, 2018

Press Release Number: 2018-123_Dickey / 18-MJ-03295-DTF