A teenager who admitted to starting the Eagle Creek fire that ripped through the scenic Columbia River Gorge last year has been ordered to pay restitution for at least the next decade, although he’ll likely never cover the $36 million bill.
Hood River County Circuit Judge John A. Olsen awarded the restitution on Monday, which totals $36, 618, 330.24 to Eagle Creek fire victims including the U.S. Forest Service and Oregon Department of Transportation. USA Today reports the money will cover the costs of firefighting, repair and restoration to the gorge and damage to homes.
The boy, a 15-year-old from Vancouver, Washington, had previously acknowledged throwing two fireworks in Eagle Creek Canyon on Sep. 2. The fire spread at a rapid pace, causing county-wide evacuations, closure of a major interstate highway and totally devastating an outdoor tourist attraction.
According to The Oregonian the young boy’s lawyer, Jack Morris, called the restitution order “absurd” and “absolutely silly.” At a hearing last week, Morris urged for a more “reasonable and rational” penalty.
Judge Olsen responded: “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.” He went on to add that the figure “is clearly proportionate to the offense becasue it does not exceed the financial damages caused by the youth.”
According to court records, restitution has been awarded to the state on behalf of the victims below:
- Iris Schenk, whose Warrendale house burned down: $5,000
- Allstate Insurance: $8,111.44
- Oregon State Parks: $31,550.90
- Heuker Properties: $100,000
- Trail Club of Oregon: $168,000
- Union Pacific Railroad: $1,048,877.52
- Oregon State Fire Marshal: $1,643,035.38
- Oregon Department of Transportation: $12.5 million
- U.S. Forest Service: $21,113,755
The court did not award restitution to Amanda Rosenkoetter and Anne Coxen, who requested $4,563.72 and $8,793.14.