When a teenager hurled fireworks into a parched canyon near one of Oregon’s most scenic hiking trails, sparking a cloud of smoke to rise up toward him and his friends, some in the group reportedly giggled and recorded video, oblivious to the danger.

What came next was a wildfire that raged through the Columbia River Gorge and, eight months later, a court order mandating the teenager pay more than $36 million in restitution.

Hood River County Circuit Judge John Olson in an opinion released Monday acknowledged that the teenager could not pay that full amount.

But the damage caused by the Sept. 2 fire was substantial: After the firework ignited dry bush, a blaze spread to more than 48,000 acres, wrecking many parts of the gorge’s recreation area and costing firefighters at least $20 million, the Oregonian reported last fall.

It would be known as the Eagle Creek fire, which burned for two months and was not 100 percent contained until Nov. 30.

The fire endangered popular landmarks such as Multnomah Falls and destroyed the Oneonta Tunnel on the Historic Columbia River Highway, about 30 miles east of Portland.

It forced hundreds of people to evacuate to cities between Portland and Hood River, Oregon, closed Interstate 84 for 10 days and threatened 5,000 homes and buildings, according to the Oregonian.

At least four homes were destroyed.

In Cascade Locks, a summer tourist destination near the Columbia River , businesses took an estimated hit of more than $2 million, the Oregonian reported.


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