ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) -- Insurance companies and families of the two boys who started the 2003 Apex Fire have agreed to pay $390,000 restitution -- about 9 percent of the fire's estimate $4.3 million cost.
The fire started June 28, 2003, near the Apex mine burned about 30,000 acres belonging to the Bureau of Land Management, the Shivwits Reservation, the state and private owners.
Although it is important that there be some responsibility, it is not the goal in cases such as this to bankrupt people, said U.S. attorney's spokeswoman Melodie Rydalch.
The youths, who were 16 at the time of the fires, were sentenced in juvenile court on June 7 to four days in detention and 400 hours of community service for misdemeanor reckless burning.
At the time of the sentencing, one youth said he and his friend had gone to four-wheel at a popular campsite. He said they spotted a book of discarded matches and started a small fire on some planks of a loading dock, added some fuel, then scooped dirt over the flames.
While riding their four-wheelers, they spotted smoke in the area where they had been. He said they couldn't stop the fire so they rode home to tell his father. They called 911 and were told the fire already had been reported. They went to the police station to inform officials of what had happened.
The owner of the property where the fire started said one of the youths had started a fire on his property the previous September. He said holes were shot in his water tank, too.
"This is where we've lived and hunted," Shivwits Council Chairman Glenn Rogers said during the hearing. "(These) are cultural plants. ... All have meaning to us."
It will take 50 to 100 years before the plants came back to what they were, he said.
Rogers called the punishment a joke.
If incarcerated, the youths would have time to think about their actions, he said. "This is like a slap on the wrist."
Regarding the settlement, Rogers said there is no amount of money that could pay for the damage.
"There is no end in sight ... (but) the little plants are growing back. Nature has a way of healing itself, probably not in my lifetime, but it will be green," Rogers said.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)