Fires can cause a lot of damage from destroying nature and people's homes to killing people. When an individual starts a fire intentionally, he or she may end up facing an arson charge, which is usually classified as a felony. But, even if the act of starting the fire doesn't rise to the level of arson, engaging in conduct that causes a fire can have serious consequences.
Just ask the teen in Oregon who's been sentenced to 5 years of probation and 1,900 hours of community service for causing a fire after tossing firecrackers into a forested ravine above a hiking trail.
The Damage Caused by the Fire
The fire started on Sunday of Labor Day weekend and quickly spread to the slopes of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. It eventually left all of Willamette Valley under a blanket of smoke. The total damage was almost 50,000 acres burned. The day the fire ignited, it trapped 152 hikers overnight, but luckily the hikers weren't hurt. The local economy has also been negatively impacted by the fire because tourism is down, which is how local businesses primarily make their money.
Why Not Arson?
While each state has its own definition of arson, it generally requires a degree of criminal intent. The teen's attorney explained that the teen didn't intend to start the fire, and at the end of the teen read an apology. The district attorney also indicated that there was no evidence that the teen started the forest fire intentionally or maliciously. Instead, the teen admitted to charges of endangering another person, reckless burning, criminal mischief, and tossing lighted materials in a prohibited area in exchange for a plea deal. The teen's sentence of 5 years of probation and 1,900 hours of community service were the maximum sentence allowed by law for the charges.