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

Robbery suspect arrested near Burns Lake

RCMP use spike belt to deflate vehicle’s tires

‘Beauty amongst such tragedy:’ B.C. photographer captures nature’s trifecta

David Luggi’s photo from a beach in Fraser Lake shows Shovel Lake wildfire, Big Dipper and an aurora

Four-legged evacuees, Vanderhoof

Local physician opens up her property for 60 dogs and numerous horses

Ground crews keep a close eye on Shovel Lake wildfire overnight

Originally estimated to be 79,192 hectares, officials said more accurate mapping shows smaller size

‘We will not forget:’ Thousands attend funeral fallen Fredericton officers

Hundreds of officials marched in the parade, which included massed band, several police motorcycles

Lions give up late TD in 24-23 loss to Argos

B.C. falls to 3-5, fumbling away last-minute chance in Toronto

Eagle tree cut down legally a 1st for B.C. city

Planned eagle preserve ‘a first for City of Surrey’

Northern B.C. residents face more evacuation orders as some smoke clears up

Regional District of BulkleyNechako issued new, expanded evacuation orders for remote areas Saturday

Smoky skies like a disappearing act for sights, monuments around B.C.

Haze expected to last the next several days, Environment Canada said

Canadians react to death of former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan at age 80

Nobel Peace Prize-winning former UN leader died early Saturday following a short illness

44 drownings so far this year in B.C.

Lifesaving Society urging caution to prevent deaths while on lakes, oceans and in pools

Some of B.C.’s air quality levels worse than Jodhpur, India

Okanagan, northern B.C. seeing some of the worst air quality globally

Vancouver Island woman to attempt historic swim across Juan de Fuca Strait today

Ultra-marathon swimmer Susan Simmons to attempt to swim from Victoria to Port Angeles and back

Most Read