Thursday, February 24, 2005

Will you take a check?

A 26-year-old hunter who pled no contest to accidentally starting a Northern California forest fire in Fall 2003 has been sentenced. The sentence? Banishment from the Mendocino National Forest for five years. Oh, and an $18 million fine.

$18 million? He's a 26-year-old hunter, not a 26-year-old heir to some huge fortune. How does the judge expect him to pay this fine...ever?

Now, I agree completely that getting lost in the forest and falling asleep next to an illegal campfire that subsequently got out of control is a dumbass thing to do, and I agree that it is a criminal thing to do, even if it was accidental. But can't get blood from a stone.

The end result of this little story will surely be that the fine is never paid, which means that taxpayers will foot the full $33 million bill for one moron's mistake (6,058 acres burned because of this bozo), instead of just the $15 million difference.

This irritates me to no end. Just like it irritates me every time I hear about some stupid, bull-headed hiker or rock climber who is warned not to take a certain trail or climb a certain mountain because of an impending bout of nasty weather, but who goes ahead anyway. Then they get lost, or hurt, and rescue crews have to go rescue them. And who foots the bill? We do. I really don't appreciate paying for the whims of stupid people.

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