A 15-year-old boy who admitted setting a fire that burned 48,000 acres in Oregon’s picturesque Columbia River Gorge may have to win the lottery to pay his restitution. Literally.
Hood River County Circuit Judge John A. Olson on Monday ordered the teen to pay $36.6 million in restitution for starting the September blaze by throwing fireworks while hiking, reported The Oregonian.
State law allows the Oregon Department of Revenue to garnish the teen’s bank accounts or paychecks. If he’s due refunds on his tax returns, the state could take those. If he wins the lottery, the state also could collect all of his winnings.
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The restitution is solely the responsibility of the Vancouver teen, and not his parents, who came to the U.S. from Ukraine.
Olson acknowledged the 15-year-old boy, who has not been identified because of his age and threats against him, can’t pay the full amount, reported KING. He ordered a payment plan set up based on the 15-year-old’s ability to pay.
Olson also noted a provision allowing the court to end payments after 10 years if the teen completes probation, doesn’t commit any other offenses and makes his payments, reported the station.
The teen’s attorneys had earlier decried the $36.6 million restitution as “absurd,” reported KPTV. But Olson wrote he was “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 15-year-old boy pleaded guilty in February to starting the blaze and apologized in court. He was sentenced to five years probation and 1,920 hours of community service, KPTV reported.
"I sincerely apologize to everyone who had to deal with this fire, I cannot imagine how scary it must have been for you," the teen wrote in his February letter, according to KING. “Every day I think about this terrible decision and its awful consequences. Every time I hear people talk about the fire, I put myself down.”
Olson also ordered the teen to write individual letters of apology to 152 people trapped on the Eagle Creek trail by the blaze as well as letters to cities and agencies affected by the blaze, reported The Oregonian.
The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area attracts more than 3 million tourists a year and holds North America’s largest concentration of waterfalls. The fast-moving blaze ravaged popular hiking trails and marred stunning vistas, burning 75 square miles.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.