The cost of human-caused fires - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

The cost of human-caused fires

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WASHINGTON - In 2017, over 1,000 of the fires that burned were started by people... and usually about 4 out of every 5 fires will be human starts. According to the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.

If a person can be found at fault for a fire, there are two different avenues they can be lead down: a civil and criminal one, and it all depends on the amount of damage the fire caused.

In most cases which are civil, DNR will figure out the cost of the fire and send the people responsible a bill.

"If nothing else I hope that realizing that you will have to pay the bills for a fire that runs away leads people to act with a little additional extra caution out there," said Joe Smillie, Washington State Department of Natural Resources Spokesperson. "Our firefighters are busy enough; if we could hold down the human starts it makes it easier for us to go get the natural ones."

An example of a criminal case is the Oregon teenager who started the Eagle Creek Fire last summer and was ordered to pay $36 million. DNR says those types of cases are difficult to pursue because it'll be hard to recover the full cost, but they do happen.

People aren't the only ones billed if they start a fire. DNR says that if they can determine a spark from a train is the cause, they will also bill the railroads for the damage.

Large industrial land owners like timber farms will pay into a fund that works as an insurance pool and in the case of a fire on their land, DNR will tap into that fund for the costs.

A burned car found near the site of the milepost 22 fire in Vantage has led DNR to believe this fire is also human caused.

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