Teen slapped with $36M fine for starting Oregon wildfire

/ 05:20 PM May 24, 2018

This Sept. 4, 2017, file photo provided by KATU-TV shows a wildfire as seen from near Stevenson, Washington, across the Columbia River, burning in the Columbia River Gorge above Cascade Locks, Oregon. A teenager who started the 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.  (Tristan Fortsch/KATU-TV via AP, File)

A 15-year-old boy was slapped with a $36.6-million fine for starting a huge wildfire in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge back in September.

Hood River Judge John A. Olson issued the opinion regarding the case on Monday, The Oregonian reported. It said that the court had awarded restitution of $36,618,330 (around P1.9 billion) to cover costs in repairs and restoration of victims’ homes and the gorge. Victims of the wildfire include the US Forest Service and the Oregon Department of Transportation.

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But Olson acknowledged that the boy could not pay the amount in total. Instead, he asked the local juvenile department to come up with a payment plan. This can be halted after 10 years if the juvenile completes his five-year probation, complies with the payment and does not commit other crimes.

However, the boy’s attorney, Jack Morris, argued that the fine was “absurd” and “absolutely silly.” He also asked Olson to give his client a “reasonable and rational” amount.

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“Having reviewed the arguments presented by the parties, the court is persuaded that an award of more than $36 million in restitution does not violate either the state or federal constitution,” Olson wrote in his opinion.

The unidentified teen started the fire on Sept. 2 last year by playing with fireworks on Eagle Creek Canyon. The fire caused damage to more than 48,000 acres of land and racked up a $20-million (around P1.05-billion) firefighting bill.

He was sentenced in February this year to probation and 1,920 hours of community service. The teen was also ordered to write letters of apology to 152 people affected by the wildfire.  Katrina Hallare /ra

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