U.S. Forest Service Bills Kid for $10 Million


The U.S. Forest Service said it plans to bill a teenager about $10 million to pay the costs of fighting a 16,000-acre wildfire.

Ryan Unger, 18, was cited last month for operating an off-road vehicle without a spark arrester, which officials believe started the August blaze in central Washington. Besides burning thousands of acres, the fire destroyed one home.

The Forest Service is required by law to try to recover costs of fighting forest fires. The state Department of Natural Resources has paid about one-third of the total $14.9 million it took to extinguish the blaze.

“It’s not something we take pleasure in,” said Maureen Hanson, administrative officer for the Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forests. “We understand a lot of these people don’t go out to start a fire.”

Unger’s father said the family would not comment when reached by phone Monday.

Steve DeFolo, financial manager for the national forests, said the Forest Service usually works with an individual’s insurance company to negotiate a settlement.