Teen won’t face charges for Valley View Fire

Prosecutors say they will not file misdemeanor charges against the teen who started the camp fire that led to the devastating Valley View Fire last summer.

Late Tuesday afternoon prosecutors said that filing criminal charges would unreasonably interfere with civil lawsuits that are or will be filed in the case.

Spokane County Prosecutor Brian O’Brien said he looked at several different misdemeanor charges including burning without a permit, reckless burning and willfully starting a fire. All are misdemeanors that carry about a $180 penalty.

O’Brien said that the ticket would not be worth the delays and disruption it would cause to the civil lawsuits in the case that are attempting to recuperate several million dollars.

The Department of Natural Resources originally recommended the teen, who has not been identified because of his age, be charged with willfully setting a fire. O’Brien investigated the charge and determined it did not apply because he would have to prove the teen could reasonably know it could have led to the wildfire three days later.

He also looked at the misdemeanor of burning without a permit. O’Brien said the law only requires permits for fires larger than four feet by four feet and proving the campfire was larger than four by four could be difficult. The measurement is of the fire, not the fire pit.

O’Brien also said he declined to charge the teen with violating a burn ban because the boy didn’t know a burn ban was in effect. He also said the Spokane Fire Department did not know the ban was in effect so how could the boy reasonably be expected to know.

Tim Cronin, the teen’s attorney, commended the prosecutor for using good judgment in his decision not to prosecute the boy. He agrees his client didn’t do anything tantamount to criminal charges or anything based on recklessness.

Cronin said the teen is a responsible young man who does well in school and if his actions do turn out to be related to the fire he feels very bad because he did everything he could to put out the fire and thought it was out.

Cronin says the cause of the fire is still in dispute and questions if the camp fire was responsible for the wild fire three days later.

The Valley View Fire burned 1,000 acres, destroyed 11 homes and five outbuildings. The damage estimate for the fire is approximately $3 Million.