Judge: Teen who started Eagle Creek Fire ordered to pay $36.6M in restitution
HOOD RIVER COUNTY, OR — The Vancouver boy responsible for igniting the Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia River Gorge in September must pay more than $36.6 million in restitution.
Judge John A. Olson issued his opinion Monday, ordering the boy, who was 15 when he tossed fireworks while hiking last year, to pay $36,618,330.24 for his actions which sparked the Eagle Creek Fire.
The judge’s decision was announced four days after the teen’s attorney appeared in court, and called the amount of restitution sought “absurd.”
The state submitted 11 restitution claims from various parties, including the Oregon Department of Transportation and US Forest Service, as well as some of the victims who suffered property damage in the fire.
Olson declined two of the claims, finding they did not qualify for restitution. For the other nine claims, Olson wrote in his opinion that 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 boy 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.
While the teen’s attorney argued the restitution amount was unconstitutional, Olson wrote “the court is persuaded that an award of more than $36 million in restitution does not violate either the state or federal constitution.”
Of the claims granted restitution, $31,550 will go to Oregon State Parks, nearly $1.05 million to Union Pacific Railroad, $1.64 million to the Oregon State Fire Marshal, $12.5 million to ODOT and $21.11 million to the Forest Service.
The Eagle Creek Fire sparked Sept. 2, 2017 and burned more than 48,000 acres in the Gorge.
Olson acknowledged that the boy cannot pay the restitution in full and he authorized the Hood River Juvenile Department to establish a payment schedule.
He wrote “the court can grant full or partial satisfaction of the restitution judgment after 10 years if the youth successfully completes probation, does not commit additional offenses, and complies with the payment plans.”