Ex-Forest Worker Reports for Sentence

DENVER (AP) -- A former U.S. Forest Service worker who admitted sparking the state's largest wildfire by burning a letter from her husband has begun serving a six-year federal sentence behind bars.

Terry Lynn Barton, 39, surrendered Monday at the Carswell Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas. In an interview, she expressed guilt for the fire that caused at least $29.9 million in damage.

``There wouldn't be a day that would go by that I could live with myself knowing that I destroyed something that I loved so much _ and that's the forest _ and to hurt people, because I love people,'' she told KCNC-TV in Denver.

The Carswell center takes prisoners with serious physical or mental heath problems, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Barton was ordered to undergo mental health counseling after she was arrested but there was no indication that she was ill when she was sentenced.

Barton said she wasn't thinking about the fire danger when she burned a letter June 8 from her estranged husband, whom she was trying to divorce. The fire grew to 138,000 acres and destroyed 133 homes.

``It was just the state of mind I was in and I didn't do it on purpose,'' she told KCNC in a pre-taped interview that aired Monday. ``It just upset me and I thought: 'I'm not going to let him get to me. I'm going to get this divorce.'''

Barton, whose job included watching for fires banned because of dry conditions brought on by drought, said she drove away but looked back to see she had started a fire. She helped battle the inferno for days, too afraid to come forward and admit her guilt.

In Denver, federal prosecutors said Monday they had filed a motion seeking to preserve the right to appeal a judge's decision to deny restitution in the case.

The federal government had requested $14.7 million to cover firefighting costs and restoration of the Pike National Forest. The request was denied by a federal judge when he sentenced Barton on Feb. 21 on two arson charges.

Barton also has been sentenced to serve 12 years on a state arson charge. Her lawyer has appealed, claiming the judge might have had a conflict of interest because he was personally affected by the fire.

Before sentencing Barton this month, Judge Edward Colt said he fled his home for one night after seeing heavy smoke from the fire. He has not decided how much Barton must pay in restitution for the fire.

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