Idaho bills parent of juvenile $84,500 following wildfire
BOISE, Idaho — Idaho officials have sent an $84,500 bill to the parent of a juvenile after fire investigators determined the juvenile started a wildfire with mortar-style fireworks.
The Idaho Department of Lands in a news release Thursday says the July 7 brush fire burned 420 acres (170 hectares) of grazing land near the northern Idaho town of White Bird.
Officials determined the fire was caused by negligent behavior and Idaho law requires the person responsible be billed for firefighting costs.
Federal, state and local agencies responded to the wildfire.
Officials didn’t release the name of the person who received the bill.
Idaho State Forester David Groeschl says humans have caused more than two-thirds of wildfires on lands protected by the Idaho Department of Lands so far this year.
Oregon State Police have identified a teenager they believe started the raging Eagle Creek Fire that has now merged with another fire, burning 20,000 acres and forcing hundreds of residents to evacuate.
A 15-year-old male from Vancouver, Washington, is suspected of igniting the blaze, said police, who did not release the teen's name.
"It is believed he and others may have been using fireworks, which started the forest fire along the Eagle Creek Trail," Oregon State Police said in a statement. "The suspect was contacted by law enforcement in the parking lot of the trailhead and cooperated with the investigation."
No arrests have been made or formal charges filed so far, police said. Police want witnesses or people who heard fireworks or other explosions around the trail to come forward.
The fast-moving fire, which started Saturday, has not been contained, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown in during a Tuesday news conference. The fire is burning east of Portland, at the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.
'Do you realize how dangerous that is?'
Liz FitzGerald, who lives in Portland, told CNN about an encounter she had around the time and place authorities say the fire started that may offer clues to its origin.
FitzGerald was at the Eagle Creek Trail on Saturday afternoon, hoping to beat the heat by heading out to Punch Bowl Falls, a waterfall at the end of the trail, she said.
When she was about 1 1/2 miles in, FitzGerald encountered a group of teenagers, including one who she saw "throw a smoke bomb," she said.
"He lobbed it casually into the canyon," she said, adding that another teen was recording a video.
"Do you realize how dangerous that is?" FitzGerald said she asked the teen, mentioning a nearby wildfire and how dry the area was.
FitzGerald then noticed smoke coming up from where she believed the object had landed, she said.
A girl, who was with the group of teens, said, "Oh s***," FitzGerald recalled.
Then the teens continued down the trail, she told CNN.
FitzGerald headed in the opposite direction but thought about what she had seen. She soon encountered a couple on the trail and told them about the smoke bomb. The couple told FitzGerald they had seen a group of kids with firecrackers and that they were heading down to "rat them out," she recalled.
FitzGerald, who didn't have a cell phone, took off running to report what she'd seen to authorities, she said.
When she passed the area where she had encountered the teens, "I saw a massive cloud of smoke. I could smell fire. I couldn't see the flames. It's steep -- but I knew the forest was on fire," she said.
'There was no sense of panicking'
As she ran down the trail, FitzGerald saw the teens again, "casually walking down the hill," she said, adding the group now included fewer people.
"Do you realize you just lit a forest fire?" she asked them, she recalled.
"What are we supposed to do about it now?" one of them replied, FitzGerald told CNN.
"Call the freaking fire department," she said.
FitzGerald found a forestry law enforcement officer at the parking lot and reported what she had seen. She then saw a minivan pull away with a girl sitting in the front seat.