Judge Orders Teen to Pay Damages for Starting Oregon Wildfire. It Cost $37 Million
A judge ordered a Vancouver teenager to pay nearly $37 million in restitution for at least 10 years after he started a major wildfire last year.
Circuit Judge John A. Olson of Hood River, Ore. issued the opinion Monday, with the restitution damages totaling $36,618,330.24, according to the Associated Press. The payment covers costs for firefighting, repair and restoration of the affected area, Columbia River Gorge, though it’s unlikely the boy will fully payback the total bill.
Olson’s opinion states the 15-year-old can set up a payment plan that can be halted after 10 years if he makes steady payments, finishes probation and doesn’t commit any more crimes. The boy’s lawyer at a hearing last week called for a “reasonable and rational” punishment, saying the demanded $37 million was an “absurd” amount for a child. No one else is legally responsible for the penalty, including his parents, who came to the U.S. from Ukraine.
The boy’s identity is being withheld by authorities due to extreme public anger over the wildfire, which was set off after the boy tossed two fireworks into Eagle Creek Canyon last September. The fire resulted in evacuations, a lengthy shutdown of an interstate highway, and severe damage to a popular tourist attraction. The boy has since acknowledged his actions and was ordered to write more than 150 apology letters to those who were affected.
In February, the teen pleaded guilty to reckless burning of public and private property and other charges. He was sentenced to probation and community service.
In his opinion, Olson said that the biggest fine who could find for an Oregon juvenile restitution case in the past was $114,000.