Two boys were charged Wednesday with allegedly starting the Drive-In Fire. Deputy Prosecutor Ian Service said the two 8-year-olds are being charged with felony arson in the third degree.
Meanwhile the Bureau of Land Management is working to rehabilitate the thousands of acres scorched by the burn and warn people in the area of what is to come. The agency held a meeting Wednesday night for homeowners and residents in the area to talk about the potential risks of living where they do.
BLM Natural Resource Specialist Michael Kuyper pointed out on a map that the Drive-In burn area almost matches up with the watershed area there, and the streams run right into homes and county buildings.
“You can see that most of the headwaters are really steep. They’re over 50 percent. Application of a mulch to those areas is really not going to be very effective. So basically if we get a pretty heavy storm event, the water is going to leave the watershed and flood into the city,” Kuyper said.
The fire was so bad that it completely eliminated any vegetation in the area, and while they have plans to drop mulch to prevent soil erosion, that would not stop the flow of massive amounts of water into nearby homes, Kuyper said.
The BLM has been working to do things like plant seeds in the dozer lines and is planning to lay straw to prevent erosion. The biggest thing people can do to help them is to stay away, Kuyper said.
“We’ll be flying seed and we’ll be flying mulch (on the area) in the next month or two, and yeah, so the last thing we want is for private individuals to be hampering those efforts,” he said.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Ian Service said that if convicted, the boys charged with starting the fire may have to help in that effort. While they potentially face hundreds of thousands of dollars in restitution and up to 180 days in juvenile detention, Service said they will most likely be sentenced to a lot of community service.
“Even though it’s a felony, and if they were adults it would be a pretty severe penalty, as juveniles, that’s restorative justice. So what they are facing is a lot more restitution and making the community whole again,” Service said.
Even though the community may be looking for justice and to punish the boys harshly, Service said he has to consider the rest of their lives and how realistic it is for their families to pay restitution. The BLM estimates the fire cost the agency $750,000.
Service said there were three boys present when the fire started, but he determined through police reports that only two of them were allegedly responsible.