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Teen Who Burned Down Hundreds of Acres of Forest Charged $36 Million in Fines

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Whenever a fire grows out of control and starts to pose serious threats to civilians, wildlife, or property, one of the first things people want to know is whether the fire started naturally or was a byproduct of human error.

The Eagle Creek fire that started last September was deemed to have been started by a 15-year-old boy who made a regrettable decision while hiking with friends.



Liz FitzGerald, who’d been hiking nearby at the time, saw the situation and reportedly had some words for the reckless teenager.

“I saw this shorter kid lob this smoke bomb down into the canyon,” she said. “I was probably 4 feet away from him. I said, ‘Do you realize how dangerous this is? There’s a raging forest fire up the trail. This place is so dry.'”

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At first, she assumed the smoke wisping up from the canyon was just from a smoke bomb the kid had launched, but soon became concerned that it was more serious.

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After bumping into other hikers who had seen the same reckless behavior, she decided she needed to contact the authorities.

“I started to run,” she said. “At that point, it was so obvious to me that it was a fire. I could see all of this smoke billowing up.”

She bumped into the oblivious group of teens on her way out, and she had some choice words for them.



“I said, ‘Do you realize you just started a forest fire?’ And the kid who had been filming with his cellphone said, ‘But what are we supposed to do about it now?’ And I said, ‘Call the fricking fire department!'”

The fire department continued to battle that blaze for three months, costing them a total of over $18 million.

The fire burned over 48,000 acres, including much of the Columbia River Gorge’s attractive landscape. Earlier this year, the 15-year-old admitted to starting the fire and was recently found guilty.



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The teen has been sentenced with a $36 million fine. He will be required to pay toward the fine for 10 years, and then — if he abides by all other conditions and doesn’t commit any more crimes — the fine will be excused.

The boy is also required to fulfill five years of probation and over 1900 hours of community service. Hopefully other teens with similar ideas will see the outcome here and choose not to follow in this teen’s footsteps.

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