Teen Ordered to Pay $36 Million for Oregon Wildfires

Teen Ordered to Pay $36 Million for Oregon Wildfires

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A Vancouver teen will have to adhere to a ‘payment schedule’ to address the $36 million he owes for starting the devastating Eagle Creek Fire last year.

Eagle Creek Fire
A teen who started the destructive Eagle Creek Fire must pay damages

A couple cheap fireworks have cost one teen millions of dollars. That’s after Circuit Court Judge John Olson last week ordered the young man to pay more than $36 million in restitution for “recklessly” igniting a fire that scorched nearly 50,000 acres.

The Eagle Creek Fire burned for almost three months through Oregon and Washington during fall 2017. The blaze forced hundreds of people to evacuate homes and businesses. It left 153 hikers stranded near the Oregon-Washington border and spurred numerous emergency and rescue operations.

The teen, named “A.B.” in Hood River County Circuit Court documents, admitted to several counts of depositing burning material on Forest Service land. He also confessed to criminal mischief, reckless endangerment, and reckless burning.

Teen Owes $36 Million for Eagle Creek Fire

Though substantial, the court acknowledged A.B., who was 15 at the time of the incident, “cannot pay the judgment in full.” Therefore, the court authorized “the Hood River Juvenile Department to establish a payment schedule.”

Eagle Creek Fire restitution
The Eagle Creek suspension bridge buckled after the fire caused a cable failure

In the ruling, Judge Olson also denied A.B.’s defense attorneys’ objection to the hefty penalty. Olson cited a number of “safety valves” Oregon law provides juvenile offenders.

According to the judgment, the court can delay the enforcement of the penalty, create a payment schedule suitable for the youth offender, and even forgive any restitution owed after 10 years if A.B. completes probation and maintains a clean criminal record.

Still, Judge Olson said in his decision the penalty was appropriate for the severe damages resulting from the teen’s actions.

“I’m satisfied the restitution ordered in this case bears a sufficient relationship to the gravity of the offenses for which the youth was adjudicated,” Judge Olson wrote. He added the $36,618,330.24 judgment fairly met the juvenile delinquency goals of “personal responsibility, accountability, and reformation within the context of public safety.”

The recipients of A.B.’s restitution amount include Allstate Insurance ($8,000), Oregon State Parks ($31,000), Oregon State Fire Marshall ($1.6 million), and the U.S. Forest Service ($21 million).

Adam Ruggiero
Adam Ruggiero is an all-sport activity junkie - from biking, running, and (not enough) surfing, to ball sports, camping, and cattle farming. If it's outside, it's worth doing. Adam graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism. Likes: unique beer, dogs, stories. Like nots: neckties, escalators, manicured lawns.