Letter: Appropriate punishment: work

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If indeed this Vancouver teen, or teens, was responsible for the horrendous Eagle Creek Fire, what punishment could be imposed?

Incarceration? No. Compensation? Impossible. But somehow he must be made to understand that actions have consequences. A suggestion: service. He’s probably too young this year, but next year, at age 16, hand him a pair of boots, a hard hat and a Pulaski. Too young, you think? Naw. We were on fire line with the Forest Service in the early 1940s and without all the protection now available.

Send him to a big fire. Put him to work building fire line. Have him feel the heat of the blazes burning next to him. Expose him to the fear and helplessness of a fire crowning and out of control. Give him the experience of dragging to camp, too dog tired to eat, no shower, just to fall onto his bag. A few hours later to repeat the grinding labors again.

A few weeks of that experience should help him realize the enormity of the loss in assets, in human energy, of family displacements that his one simple, stupid, irresponsible act caused. The only payback — he might at least become a responsible teen and a productive adult.