Cool or Lame: Chilean Fire – When Countries Sue

Wow, this is a tough one.

Jiri Smitak, a Czech outdoorsman, was camping last February in Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, easily one of
the most beautiful places on earth. While hanging out one evening, he accidentally kicked over his travel stove (um, in
50 mph winds), and started a fire that
quickly spread out of control, ravaging some 35,000 acres of parkland. Oh, and this violated park rules. That is, it
was illegal. Ouch.

Thankfully, the fire is not expected to affect visitation at the park, as most of the burned area was outside of where
tourists and trekkers typically go. In fact, the famous W trek was completely spared. Immediately after the blaze,
Smitak turned himself in and was fined $250, the maximum amount allowable under Chilean law. He paid it, and then gave
an additional $1000 voluntarily. But that is not enough. In March, Chilean authorities
sued Smitak for reparations. The Czech government has
offered to help, but the Chileans are saying they
might seek as much as $20 million and seek to confiscate Smitak’s Czech property (how they would do this, I have no

Now, there is no denying he caused the fire, and Smitak has said publicly that he is very sorry. But my question is:
accidents happen, and something of this scale is probably for governments to handle. Or no? Should the Chileans pursue
Smitak? In other words, are the Chileans being cool or lame?