If the kid had actually been in the balloon or if he wasn't but they really believed her was I doubt they would have charged him the cost. But when it's all a hoax? Oh yeah, they want their money back. They want you to report real emergencies, and don't want you to report fake ones.
...and the $100K+ price tag for multi-county search and rescue efforts...
When it was all unfolding- I sat riveted watching the tv- one of the experts said they don't charge for search and rescue because if they did it might discourage people from reporting real emergencies. True? I don't know but if they're being charged for it I guess it's warranted in this case!
Yup, if you are in a legit need of public service they are there for you. If it is not legit you will get a bill for services rendered.
Out where I live there is a lot of farm land. Somewhat tight-knit. It turns out the field the balloon landed in,
had just been drilled (seeded) and was ready for the crop to start growing. With all the fire trucks, cop cars and foot
traffic, they trampled the heck out of it. I never found out if the field was a complete loss or if insurance
would cover balloon hoax, but my neighbors knew the farmer. I am going to ask what the end result was.