Teen Who Burned Oregon Forest Told to Pay $37 Million in Damages

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The Eagle Creek fire is seen burning along the Columbia River in Oregon on September 5, 2017. A teenager is being asked to pay $37 million for the damages. Inciweb/Handout via REUTERS

A 15-year-old boy who started a fire that ravaged 75 square miles of land is being asked to pay $37 million in restitution.

The Vancouver, Washington, teen started the wildfire in the scenic Columbia River Gorge in Oregon last September after throwing a firework that exploded in the air. A second firework with a longer fuse that he threw ignited brush.

The flames spread quickly and forced evacuations and the shutdown of a highway. The blaze also ravaged hiking trails that attract more than 3 million visitors per year.

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The Eagle Creek fire is seen burning along the Columbia River in Oregon on September 5, 2017. A teenager is being asked to pay $37 million for the damages. Inciweb/Handout via REUTERS

Eleven requests have been made in court to cover the costs of firefighting, damage to homes and restoration, the Associated Press reported.

The U.S. Forest Service wants $21 million, and the Oregon Department of Transportation wants $12.5 million. Other claims range from $4,563 to $1.6 million.

The teenager's attorney, Jack Morris, urged Hood River County Circuit Court Judge John Olson to impose a "reasonable and rational amount" of restitution, OregonLive reported. "It is an extraordinary amount of restitution being sought," Olson said.

The judge said the largest figure he could find for juvenile restitution was for $114,000, and he would soon issue a written ruling.

The boy was sentenced to community service and probation after he pleaded guilty in February to reckless burning of public and private property and other charges.

He had to write more than 150 letters of apology to those whose properties were affected by the fire. His name has been withheld by the authorities due to public anger over his actions.

"I get to look at torched Angel's Rest every day," farmer Paul Smith told the AP. "It will never be the same. You can't financially quantify the damage he's done."

Teen Who Burned Oregon Forest Told to Pay $37 Million in Damages | U.S.