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

Alberni wrestler heads to University of the Fraser Valley to compete

Ravi Manhas is one of 10 recruits signed to the Cascades for 2018-19

Taxing Vancouver Island

Big Read: find out which communities are paying the lowest and highest taxes on Vancouver Island

UPDATE: Construction on Hwy. 4 halted after tree crashes into traffic

Trees are being cleared along the highway between Port Alberni and the Tofino-Ucluelet junction.

115 new wildfires burning across B.C. due to 19,000 lightning strikes

More fires expected to start today, says BC Wildfire Service officials

B.C. BMX kid wows GoPro with homemade video

Eight-year-old Rex Johnson wins award for inventive video

Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna suspended for 75 games

23-year-old pitcher faces assault charge

Vancouver Canucks tab Quinn Hughes with No. 7 overall pick in NHL draft

University of Michigan standout was second defenceman picked in first round

Gun, drugs and cash seized in arrest of alleged B.C. fentanyl dealer

Vancouver Island man Brent Connors is facing nine charges in relation to investigation

Jogger spent two weeks in U.S. detention centre after accidentally crossing B.C. border

Cedella Roman, 19, crossed the border while out for a run

PHOTOS: Police rescue baby seal found on rocky B.C. shoreline

Marina Mammal Rescue Centre recommends residents observe from a distance

B.C. woman with severely disabled son keeps getting parking tickets

‘There has to be something they could do’

Man brandishes axe during robbery

Mounties were able to locate the suspect within two hours of the incident

‘Creep off’ reporting system aims to track street harassment in Metro Vancouver

Text-based hotline launches to collect public reports on where and when harassment occurs

Most Read