The 15-year-old Vancouver teen accused of starting the Eagle Creek Fire will be charged as a juvenile in Hood River County, the Oregon State Police announced Thursday.
The boy was identified as a suspect by OSP on Sept. 2, the night the wildfire started. Police believe the teen used fireworks that started the fire.
The wildfire burned more than 48,000 acres in the scenic Columbia River Gorge and Mt. Hood National Forest. A group of hikers had to be rescued after the fire started and several structures burned.
The suspect has already appeared in court.
A juvenile court charging petition was filed by the Hood River County Juvenile Department under the direction of Hood River County District Attorney John Sewell. Allegations in the charging document include reckless burning, depositing burning materials on forest lands, unlawful possession of fireworks, criminal mischief and reckless endangerment of other persons.
The suspect's name has not been released because he is younger than 18 and not being charged as an adult.
The teen's alleged actions have led many to urge police to release his name.
After announcing the new charging information, OSP sent KGW several social comments the agency received in September, calling for extreme forms of justice for the teen.
"I think they should drop him out of one of the water planes," one commenter posted. "Let him feed the first seed."
"You could argue that he should be charged with attempted murder, in addition to arson," said another. "This is serious. All those hikers who had to be rescued, over 150? That's one count EACH."
Others took a more sympathetic stance.
"All you people that think locking a 15-year-old up for years is the answer, and destroying his family at the same time, are what is wrong with this country," another man countered.
The conversation continued Thursday as hundreds of people weighed in on KGW's Facebook page.
The 15-year-old faces charges of reckless burning, depositing burning materials on forest lands, unlawful possession of fireworks, criminal mischief and reckless endangerment of other persons.Posted by KGW-TV on Thursday, October 19, 2017
The wildfire burned in both Hood River and Multnomah County, but Oregon's juvenile code demands that legal proceedings take place in the county where the illegal act originally occurred.
The District Attorney's Office, the Oregon State Police and the Hood River County Juvenile Department said they will not comment further on the case until it has been resolved.
The fire forced people out of their homes and closed Interstate 84.
“He could have wiped out our whole community. It was scary the fire was right here,” said Sara Patrick, who was forced to evacuate her home in Cascade Locks.
Michael Lang, conservation director for Friends of the Columbia Gorge, said in a statement, "Fireworks are illegal at any time on any federal lands. What happens next is for the courts to decide. This is a tragedy all around. The Eagle Creek Fire has had a tremendous impact on the Gorge and Friends of the Columbia Gorge is focused on efforts to heal the land, trails, and communities affected by the fire."
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