Teenager Given $36m Fine After Burning 75 Square Miles Of Forest
A teenager has been ordered to pay a huge fine after starting a wildfire in a scenic gorge in Oregon, USA.
The eventual fine came to exactly $36,618,330.42 (£27 million), though it is extremely unlikely that he will actually have to pay anything close to that figure.
The gigantic fine was laid down by Hood County Circuit Judge John Olson to cover the expenses of the fire brigades who fought the blaze, the repair bill for the gorge, and the damage that the flames caused to homes in the area.
The fire eventually burned 75 square miles of countryside.
The fine will be paid (or not, as the case may be) to the US Forest Service and the Oregon Department of Transportation.
The 15-year-old owned up for his actions and agreed that he was to blame for throwing two live fireworks into the Eagle Creek Canyon last year on 2 September. The blaze then took hold very quickly and caused a hell of a lot of damage, which is reflected in the amount that he has been nominally fined.
The authorities at least agreed to keep the boy's identity off the record, as well as his family's name, for fear of reprisals from the public.
His mother said: "This is a trauma for him. It was his mistake."
In the ruling, Judge Olson said the boy can pay via an arranged payment plan (we're left to assume that he doesn't have $36m knocking about the house). He also cited 'safety valves' in state law to add if the youngster commits no further crimes and completes a period of probation, his fine will be written off after 10 years.
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As reported by the Oregonian, Olson wrote: "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."
The judge added that the figure "is clearly proportionate to the offense because it does not exceed the financial damages caused by the youth."
Whatever way you cut it, that's still a pretty expensive mistake for a 15-year-old.
As a result of the fire, an interstate highway was closed down temporarily, people were evacuated from their homes, and an area of natural beauty was nearly ruined.
The teenager was charged and subsequently pleaded guilty to reckless burning of public property as well as private property and several other charges.
He's been sentenced to five years of probation and must also complete 1,920 hours (80 days) of community service with the US Forest Service.
As part of his sentence he has also had to write upwards of 150 letters to people who were displaced from their homes and those affected by the fire.
Under the rules of his fine his wages and bank accounts can be garnered by the state, they will also take his tax rebates (should be get any) and will even take all of his winnings if he wins the lottery.
You'd have to imagine he won't be buying a ticket any time soon.
Featured Image Credit: PA