Teen must pay $36 million for starting wildfire that burned 48,000 acres

Posted at 6:58 PM, May 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-22 18:58:18-04

Columbia River Gorge, OR (KPTV) — Restitution claims involving the Eagle Creek Fire have topped $36 million dollars.

The attorney for the Vancouver teen who started the fire that tore through the Columbia River Gorge was back in court Thursday.

The judge did not make a decision Thursday about what restitution the boy will have to pay, but said a ruling will come down possibly as early as Friday.

The state submitted 11 restitution claims from various parties, including the Oregon Department of Transportation and U.S. Forest Service, as well as some of the victims who suffered property damage in the fire.

Some requests are for thousands of dollars, others are asking millions.

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.

The fire burned more than 48,000 acres in the Gorge.

Some people attended Thursday’s hearing, still frustrated by the destruction in the Gorge.

“It’s a huge loss. I don’t think there is anything he can do to make up for that kind of devastation,” said hiker Helen Gross.

Others said the effects will be seen for years to come.

“I see it visually. I look out my window every day and see the sun shining on scorched mountainside. Something I will look at for as long as I live there,” said Martha Lamont, who lives in Cascade Locks.

The judge said Thursday he must look into the constitutionality of such a high restitution cost.

The teen’s attorney said his client, who was not present at the hearing, is not requesting restitution costs be dismissed, but he did make it clear in court that he felt the amount proposed by the state is “absurd.”