Two students will pay dearly for an end-of-year party at the mountain home of the grandfather of one of them: €13.5 million.

The 22-year-olds, Daniele Borghi and Alessio Molteni, were with around a dozen friends at the home in the Marronessa area near Como, and lit a barbecue on December 30. But one of the embers started a fire which raged out of control within a short time, spurred on by the dry conditions, destroying over 110 hectares on Mt Berlinghera.

The fire destroyed properties and killed numerous animals.

Investigators found traces of the fire-starter used to light the barbecue, which led to the boys’ prosecution.

Officials used a formula outlined in a 2008 law to determine the extent of damage and came up with the amount of €13.5 million, which left the students complaining that they had been made "scapegoats" for the fire.

The officials could have levied a fine of up to €40 million based on the formula.

The young men's lawyer, Ivana Anomali, insisted that there might have been other sources for the blaze, and said it was ridiculous to impose such a hefty fine on students who could never afford to pay it.

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