Two students whose barbecue started a wildfire that raged through a forest in northern Italy for days have been fined more than $30 million.
Alessio Molteni, 22, and Daniele Borghi, 22, said they were “deeply sorry” about the fire, the Telegraph reports. But they also said they were made scapegoats, saying that they didn’t think their barbecue was the only source of the forest fire. And their lawyer questioned why the forestry service would impose such a large fine “knowing that these two kids, who are still students, cannot pay it.”
Police calculated the fine using a formula called for by local laws. The blaze burned about 2,500 acres on Monte Berlinghera. The prosecutor called the fine “a signal that we need to push people to greater responsibility in protecting the environment,” per the BBC.
The students were celebrating the new year when they lit the barbecue last Dec. 30 in a garden near Lake Como, at a home belonging to the grandfather of one of the men.
“As soon as the fire broke out, we called the fire service and we threw ourselves at the flames to try to put them out,” Molteni said. High winds and dry conditions helped the fire to spread quickly, officials said. Several properties were damaged, per the Telegraph, and domestic animals, including horses, were killed.
Officials traced the fire to the barbecue, but the students say there were other sources. “We are the scapegoats of a fire that cannot be explained,” one of them said. “We are the real victims of this story.”
(Read more forest fire stories.)