Police seek photos of Gorge fire suspect, officials: 'Let law enforcement handle it'
State investigators said they are looking for photos and video of the 15-year-old who threw a firework off of Eagle Creek Trail on Saturday, sparking a 32,000-acre wildfire that swept through part of the Columbia River Gorge.
The wildfire forced hundreds to evacuate their homes, closed Interstate 84 to traffic, and jeopardized a scenic treasure.
Several people are wondering what will happen to the teenager, the group that was with him, or his family.
Witness Liz Fitzgerald said she saw the suspect toss a smoke bomb into the ravine.
“I heard, if I recall correctly, what sounded like kind of light laughter and I looked over and I said 'do you realize how dangerous that is?'” Fizgerald said.
She also says at least one person in the group was taking a video at the time. State police consider any video or photo of the group as evidence and would like people to send them to investigators.
“We are pursuing that. There has been evidence seized on that and we are conducting, basically, electronic analysis of those devices,” said Oregon State Police Capt. Bill Fugate.
Authorities have not arrested the teenage suspect or released his name. State police say the suspect and his family are cooperating with their investigation.
“I can imagine that's a stressful time for a lot of people and I understand that there may be some animosity towards the suspect, but I would just urge people to let the justice system take its course,” said State Police Sgt. Cameron Bailey. “To not bring any kind of harm or any more threats against the suspect or suspects and just let law enforcement handle it.
State police will probably send the case to the Hood River County District Attorney's Office for possible charges against the suspect, including whether they'll be charged as a juvenile or an adult.
Federal prosecutors could also seek penalties against the suspect and his family because of damage to public lands. Past settlement cases like this have totaled in the millions of dollars.