It is a good question; in fact, one that at least 10 different agencies could not answer. Good 4 Utah was able to find out that no charges are ever filed without first performing a lengthy investigation.
“The fire investigators may come from the Forest Service, the State of Utah, or local law enforcement agencies…” said Loyal Clark, spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service. Someone from the U.S. Attorney's Office will be assigned to that case. They will review all the information that has been gathered and compiled," she said.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office will then make specific recommendations on how an agency should charge the perpetrator(s).
"A recommendation could be made that that individual may not only have charges brought against them, depending on intent, but they may also be billed for the entire suppression costs of the fire," said Clark.
Those costs can be pretty hefty, ranging from $5,000 – $5 million. Authorities say sometimes when minors are responsible, they can ‘get off the hook’ with just community service. Everything is taken on a case-by-case basis, though.
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