Forest Service worker arrested for starting CO blaze
CASTLE ROCK, Colorado (CNN) -- Federal authorities said Sunday they have arrested a forest technician with the U.S. Forest Service for starting the Hayman fire, the largest wildfire in Colorado's history.
Terry Barton, 38, is charged with setting fire to timber in a national forest, damage to federal property with value in excess of $1,000, and making false statements to federal fire investigators.
The Hayman fire now measures 160 square miles and had earlier threatened Denver's southwestern suburbs. More than 5,400 residents are under a mandatory evacuation order because of the fire, and 10,000 homes are threatened by the flames.
"It's tough for me to find the words to express myself right now," said Rick Cables, regional forester for the Forest Service, in announcing the arrest.
Authorities allege Barton was patrolling fires in the Hayman area of Pike National Forest, enforcing a fire ban earlier in June. They say she has admitted starting a fire in a campfire ring, which apparently went out of control and eventually spread into a blaze that has now burned more than 100,000 acres.
Barton faces as much as $500,000 in fines and as many as 15 years in prison, if convicted. She is currently being held in a criminal facility in Colorado Springs.
The Hayman fire burned into its second week Sunday, having torched 25 homes, one business, and 13 other structures. Officials had previously believed an illegal campfire started the blaze June 8.
Sunday, more than 2,100 firefighters were battling the Hayman fire, which was 47 percent contained.
But officials expressed concerns about another fire sweeping quickly through an area in the state's southwest near Durango.
Flames rage in the southwest
The Missionary Ridge fire in Colorado's southwestern corner, 15 miles north of Durango, was reclassified a "type 1" fire early Sunday with reports of "extreme fire behavior."
Bobbie Mixon with the Rocky Mountain Coordination Center said the fire has burned some 23,000 acres and is moving with "extreme rates of speed" east toward Durango. So far, he said, 240 homes have been evacuated and some 1,500 people are on "pre-evacuation standby."
More than 900 firefighters are on the scene, working to save homes and buildings in the area, Mixon said.
An extremely low humidity is partly to blame for the fire's rapid spread. Relative humidity has been in the single digits -- at one point "too low to calculate" -- and temperatures in the area are in the mid 80s, said Mixon.
More than 4,200 firefighters are on the job in Colorado this week, battling blazes that have torched nearly 175,000 acres.
Officials declared the Trinidad Complex of two fires (33,000 acres) on the New Mexico state line 100 percent contained Saturday, and most of the threat to populated areas was over for the 12,000-acre Coal Seam fire, about 160 miles west of Denver.
Mixon said the Miracle Fire Complex to the north, near Grand Junction, was now 100 percent contained, and firefighters expect to have complete control of the fire by the end of Sunday.
forest service employee charged
why is this person being charged but the employee in NEW MEXICO "los alamos" wasnt when he started that fire 2000?