Teen ordered to pay $37 million restitution for 2017 forest fire - ABC21: Your Weather Authority

Teen ordered to pay $37 million restitution for 2017 forest fire

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Jonathan Barrett / U.S. Forest Service Jonathan Barrett / U.S. Forest Service

HOOD RIVER, Ore. (AP) - 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/OregonLive reports that the Hood River County Circuit Court judge issued an opinion on Monday awarding the restitution to cover the costs of firefighting, repair and restoration to the gorge and damage to homes.

The 15-year-old from Vancouver, Washington, said he threw two fireworks last September that caused flames to spread quickly, causing evacuations and devastation to a major tourist attraction on the Oregon-Washington border. The Eagle Creek Fire burned nearly 49,000 acres.

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.

KPTV reports Judge John Olson declined two of 11 restitution claims from various parties, saying they did not qualify. For the others, he wrote he was "satisfied that the restitution ordered in this case bears a sufficient relationship to the gravity of the offenses for which the youth was adjudicated."

The teen pleaded guilty to 12 counts in February, including reckless burning on public land and criminal mischief. He apologized in court in February and was sentenced to five years probation and 1,920 hours of community service with the Forest Service, as well as write apology letters to various agencies and more than 150 people trapped on the Eagle Creek trail by the spreading flames.

The granted claims include about $21 million to the Forest Service, $12.5 million to ODOT, $1.64 million to the Oregon State Fire Marshal and more than $1 million to Union Pacific Railroad.

Olson acknowledged that the boy cannot pay the restitution in full and he authorized the Hood River Juvenile Department to establish a payment schedule.

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