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.
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06-16-2002, 07:16 PM #1
Forest Service worker arrested for starting CO blaze"Let every nation know..that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty"---JFK, Jan.1961
06-17-2002, 03:48 AM #2
More AP info:
FLORISSANT, Colo. (AP) - People who knew Terry Barton say she
was a dedicated U.S. Forest Service employee and they were stunned
Sunday when federal authorities announced her arrest on charges of
setting a wildfire that paralyzed this southern Colorado community.
Victims of the fire were sickened, disappointed and embarrassed.
" We all wanted to believe it was some fool from somewhere
else. You can understand that, we don't want to believe it. That
it's one of ours makes it real sad," said Jody Penny, 45, who was
evacuated from Florissant Heights on Tuesday and has been staying
at the Thunderbird Inn.
Barton, 38, admitted starting the fire while patrolling the
forest to enforce a fire ban, assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Leone
She was arrested on federal charges of setting fire to timber in
the national forest, damaging federal property and making false
statements to investigators.
She initially told authorities she smelled smoke, discovered an
illegal camp fire and tried to put it out by throwing dirt on it,
but it was too late.
Authorities said she later admitted accidentally setting the
wildfire after investigators determined she could not have smelled
smoke from the position she reported and investigators confronted
her with unspecified forensic evidence.
Barton has worked for the Forest Service for about 18 years,
first as a seasonal employee and less than a year as a part-time
Joan Spigner, who runs a convenience store in Lake George and
has lived there 25 years, said Barton has been a customer for
"She was really liked by everybody, a swell person and hard
worker for the Forest Service. I don't know what made her set that
letter on fire. She should have burned it in her wood stove,"
"The Forest Service was her life. She worked really hard. She
came in really tired," she said.
Spigner said she found out about Barton's arrest when her
daughter called from Florida and saw the announcement on
"I said, `No, she didn't start it. She reported it,' " Spigner
More than 200 people packed into a school gym in Lake George
Sunday evening for an update on the fire.
Park County Sheriff's Sgt. Dan Anthony announced there had been
arrest in fire and the crowd cheered. When Joe Meade, acting
superintendent of the Pike and San Isabel national forests
announced who was arrested, the crowd suddenly grew quiet, then let
out a soft, collective gasp.
Steve Frye, the new incident commander, urged support for all
the people working on the fire.
Penny said friends and neighbors feel guilty and wondered if
they could have done something to prevent the disaster.
"This was one person that we kind of feel like we let down. She
didn't go out there and make a fire to burn down our forest. She
went up there to burn up a letter and be real down," Penny said.
Van Haynes expressed disbelief at the news . Forced out of his
home near Florissant a week ago, Haynes was waiting for the start
of a community meeting at Woodland Park High School Sunday evening.
"My only question is why the Forest Service worker tried to pin
it on somebody else," he said.
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06-17-2002, 04:58 PM #3
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- Jun 2002
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?
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