Judge orders teen charged for starting Oregon wildfire to pay $36.6M in restitution

Photo of the Eagle Creek Fire taken on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. Photo by Leah Smith

HOOD RIVER, Ore. (KATU) – A Hood River County Circuit Court judge ordered the teen responsible for starting the Eagle Creek Fire to pay more than $36.6 million in restitution to cover the damage caused by the fire.

A judge was expected to make a decision on the restitution on Thursday, May 17, but delayed his decision in order to review the constitutionality of issuing such a large fine on the minor.

The boy’s attorney argued that the more than $36.6 million in restitution would violate the Oregon and U.S. constitutions because it is inflicting “cruel and unusual punishment” and that the restitution should be considered “excessive fines imposed.” The attorney was referring to Article I, section 16 of the Oregon Constitution and the 14th Amendment.

The original proposed amount of restitution was $36,631,687.10, but the judge decided to remove two requests from individuals, lowering the restitution amount to $36,618,330.24.

“In short, I’m 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 judge said in a memorandum opinion setting the restitution.

The Eagle Creek Fire started on Sept. 2, 2017 and destroyed approximately 48,000 acres of forest land in the Columbia River Gorge. The teen was 15 years old when he tossed a couple of fireworks into brush while hiking on the Eagle Creek Trail. One of the fireworks ignited the fire.

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