Teen who ig­nited mas­sive fire may have to re­pay $37M

Imperial Valley Press - - NEWS -

HOOD RIVER, Ore. ( AP) — A teenager who started a huge wild­fire in the scenic Columbia River Gorge in Ore­gon could owe more in resti­tu­tion that he will earn in a life­time.

Eleven re­quests for resti­tu­tion to­tal­ing al­most $37 mil­lion have been sub­mit­ted to a court.

That cov­ers the costs of fire­fight­ing, re­pair and restora­tion to the gorge and dam­age to homes.

At a hear­ing Thurs­day, the lawyer for the 15-yearold de­fen­dant urged Hood River County Judge John Ol­son to im­pose a “rea­son­able and ra­tio­nal” amount of resti­tu­tion.

The at­tor­ney, Jack Mor­ris, said or­der­ing a boy who is in­di­gent to pay $37 mil­lion is “ab­surd.”

The judge said he has re­viewed prior ju­ve­nile resti­tu­tion cases in Ore­gon, and the largest fig­ure he could find was for $114,000.

He said he needed more time to review the case, and would is­sue a writ­ten rul­ing, The Ore­go­nian/Ore­gonLive re­ported .

“It is an ex­tra­or­di­nary amount of resti­tu­tion be­ing sought,” Ol­son said.

The teen from Van­cou­ver, Wash­ing­ton, did not at­tend the hear­ing.

He pleaded guilty in Feb­ru­ary 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.

The teen said he threw one fire­work that ex­ploded in the air along a trail and a sec­ond one that had a longer fuse and ig­nited brush when it hit the ground.

The flames spread quickly, forc­ing evac­u­a­tions and the ex­tended shut­down of a ma­jor in­ter­state high­way.

Beyond the tem­po­rary in­con­ve­niences, the fire black­ened the crown jewel of an outdoors- lov­ing re­gion for years to come.

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.

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.

“I get to look at torched An­gel’s Rest ev­ery day. It will never be the same,” farmer Paul Smith said be­fore Thurs­day’s hear­ing, re­fer­ring to a bluff. “You can’t fi­nan­cially quan­tify the dam­age he’s done.”

In this Sept. 5, 2017, file photo, the Ea­gle Creek wild­fire burns on the Ore­gon side of the Columbia River Gorge near Cas­cade Locks, Ore. GENNA MARTIN/ SEATTLEPI.COM VIA AP

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