The Eagle Creek wildfire burns on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge near Cascade Locks, Ore., on Sept. 5, 2017. (Genna Martin / seattlepi.com via AP)

Teen must repay $37M for starting Oregon wildfire

A teenager who started a major wildfire in Oregon has been ordered to pay restitution

A teenager who started a major wildfire in the scenic Columbia River Gorge in Oregon has been ordered to pay restitution for at least the next decade, though it’s unlikely the boy will ever cover his nearly $37 million bill.

The Oregonian reports that Hood River County Circuit Judge John A. Olson issued the opinion on Monday, awarding the restitution totalling $36,618,330.24 to cover the costs of firefighting, repair and restoration to the gorge and damage to homes. Victims include the U.S. Forest Service and Oregon Department of Transportation.

The 15-year-old from Vancouver, Washington, earlier this year acknowledged wrongdoing and said he threw two fireworks in Eagle Creek Canyon on Sept. 2 when flames spread quickly. The fire caused evacuations, an extended shutdown of a major interstate highway and devastation to a major outdoor tourist attraction.

The judge’s order notes that the boy can set up a payment plan, though payments can be halted after 10 years as long as he complies, completes probation and doesn’t commit other crimes.

At a hearing last week, the boy’s lawyer urged for a “reasonable and rational” penalty, calling the $37 million sought an “absurd” amount for the child. The restitution is solely the responsibility of the teen, and not his parents, who came to the U.S. from Ukraine.

Olson called it “an extraordinary amount” and then deferred on a separate restitution order because he wanted more time to review the case. The judge said the largest figure he could find for prior juvenile restitution cases in Oregon was $114,000.

The teen in February pleaded guilty to reckless burning of public and private property and other charges. Olson sentenced him to community service and probation, and the boy had to write more than 150 letters of apology to those affected by the fire that burned 75 square miles (194 square kilometres).

The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area attracts more than 3 million tourists a year and holds North America’s largest concentration of waterfalls. The fast-moving blaze ravaged popular hiking trails and marred stunning vistas.

State law allows the Oregon Department of Revenue to garnishee the teen’s bank accounts or paychecks. If he’s due refunds on his tax returns, the state could take those. If he wins the lottery, the state also could collect all of his winnings.

Anger at the boy was so intense that authorities withheld his name to protect his safety. He’s listed in court papers as A.B.

Related: Smoke in Southern Interior from U.S. wildfires

Related: Smoke from wildfires sinks into the valley

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

City council wraps up operational budget talks with a 2.15% municipal tax hike

Budget talks completed after eight days of deliberations

Reflecting on the impact of dementia in a loved one

January is Alzheimer Awareness Month

Red Deerians can weigh in on proposed Bighorn Country investment tonight

Telephone town hall takes place 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Vibrant colours highlight newest exhibit at The Hub

‘Chaos to Calm’ by Cathy Fee runs through to the end of March

Neonatal nurse practitioner joins NICU care team

Babies requiring specialized care at Red Deer Hospital have extra set of hands caring for them

Trudeau says politicians shouldn’t prey on Canadians’ fears

The Prime Minister was speaking at a townhall in Ontario

New market opens in downtown Ponoka

Makkinga Market had a soft opening showcasing many of the different foods in store

UPDATE: B.C. boy, aunt missing for three days

The pair are missing from Kamloops

Liberal bows out of byelection after singling out Jagmeet Singh’s race

Karen Wang says she made comments online that referenced Singh’s cultural background

John Savage pleads guilty to manslaughter

Sentenced to 7 years for Stettler murder

Kentucky canoe outfit borrows photo of Trudeau family to market business

They are in a red canoe, all clad in life jackets, and Sophie Gregoire Trudeau and Ella-Grace are waving

UPDATED UCP MLA cries foul after brick thrown through office window

UPDATED St. Paul MLA Dave Hanson says ‘Over-the-top NDP rhetoric’ not based in reality

Theresa May wins no-confidence vote after Brexit deal rejection

UK PM can keep her job, after House of Commons voted 325-306

Alberta doctor accused of sexual assault asked to voluntarily give up practice

College says Dr. Barry Wollach should discontinue his practice, given the seriousness of the allegation against him

Most Read