Dennis Dickey, a 37-year old Arizona Border Patrol agent, was recently ordered to pay $220,000 in fines after starting last year’s Sawmill Fire by shooting an explosive Tannerite target during a gender reveal party. The stunt was intended to reveal the gender of their baby to family and friends by exploding with either a blue or pink powder, but instead resulted in a fire that consumed more than 45,000 acres of land along Arizona’s Highway 83, forcing hundreds of people from their homes. According to this story from Newsweek the Sawmill Fire, which occurred in April of 2017, required about 800 firefighters to subdue at a cost of more than $8 million. Newsweek reports that Dickey will pay $100,000 at his Oct. 9 sentencing for the misdemeanor “starting a fire without a permit” charge. On top of that initial fine, he will pay $500 a month for the next 20 years until the rest of the $120,000 balance is reached. The plea agreement also stipulates five years of probation. Dickey never intended for the blaze to occur, but the stunt was obviously ill advised given the dry conditions. Tannerite is a legal, and fun, compound that can add excitement to any range session, and it has been widely used on TV and in shooting videos online, because it creates an impressive looking explosion. Though it is explosive, Tannerite is non-flammable and can be sold with little or no restrictions because the oxidizer and fuel components of the binary compound must be mixed together to activate them. The substance is relatively stable, only being readily triggered by impact from a high-velocity round (slower handgun rounds won’t do it). That doesn’t make it completely safe, as evidenced by the giant blaze it ignited in Arizona. Extreme caution should always be exercised when using any explosive, and Tannerite is no exception. Never use such a substance in any area where it could start a fire, and ensure the target’s surroundings are devoid of anything that might go up. And don’t forget about shrapnel, as one unfortunate soul that stuffed a lawnmower with three pounds of the boom powder did. That disastrous idea resulted in the loss of his leg. You’ve probably seen the video.
Incendiary rounds, like tracer ammunition, have also been the source of major fires this year.
Tracers are considered a necessary evil by machine gunners, the glowing tips providing them with real-time feedback on shot placement. In the process, the fiery streaks can also alert the enemy to their location. When you’re not being shot at, tracers can be fun—especially in low-light shoots. But, as the law of unintended consequences proves, that fun can have some truly negative effects.
Colorado’s Lake Christine Fire began on July 3 and ultimately affected more than 12,500 acres to date. It caused the evacuation of approximately 1,800 residents and destroyed several homes. It was downgraded to a Burned Area Response on Sept. 8.
The fire was started by two tracer rounds fired into dry sagebrush at the Basalt Shooting range, where the use of tracer rounds was prohibited because of dry conditions.
Richard Miller, 23, and Sarah Marcus, 22, negligently let the incendiary rounds fly with devastating consequences, Unofficial Networks reported. The combination of warm temperatures, low humidity, and strong winds conspired to accelerate the fire faster than crews could put it out. The fire didn’t get as much media attention as it normally would have, because not long after it began pretty much the entire state of California burst into flames.
Miller and Marcus were both charged with fourth degree arson for their role in starting the inferno.
That wasn’t the only conflagration caused by specialty ammo or Tannerite in Colorado this past summer. The Denver Post reports that shooters using tracers ignited dry sagebrush beyond the target area at a federal Bureau of Land Management range near Wolcott, starting a 415-acre fire on June 9. A lesser blaze was started on a range in Minturn, where an exploding target ignited a small fire that was quickly extinguished.
Your mom was right—you can never be too careful. Don’t be like these shooters.
Incendiary rounds and exploding targets can add another dimension to your time on the range, but extreme caution should be exercised. Safety is everyone’s responsibility—no matter what you’re doing at the range, this should be your primary concern at all times.