Woman Pleads Guilty in CO Wildfire

CRIPPLE CREEK, Colo. (AP) -- A former U.S. Forest Service employee pleaded guilty to state arson charges Monday for setting the biggest wildfire in Colorado history.

Terry Barton, 38, could get up to 12 years in prison when she is sentenced on March 5. Last month, she pleaded guilty to federal charges for setting the fire and lying to investigators and is expected to get six years behind bars at her sentencing on those charges next month.

Prosecutors filed the state charges because of the damage done by last summer's 137,000-acre blaze in four counties outside Denver.

Barton, whose job included spotting illegal fires, told investigators she accidentally started the blaze while burning a letter from her estranged husband. Investigators believed she started the fire deliberately.

Under the plea agreement, Barton could serve a portion of the state sentence concurrently with the federal sentence.

The fire began June 8 and was brought under control July 19. It destroyed 133 homes and cost more than $29 million to contain in the mountains. The Forest Service fired Barton after her arrest.

``There are many people who were basically evicted from their homes for some time, some who lost their livelihoods, their dreams. A lot of people lost things that can never be compensated for,'' prosecutor Jeanne Smith said.

Barton and her lawyers left the courthouse without comment.

Ginger Krabbenhoft of Florissant, whose 35 acres were charred by the fire, was upset about the plea and said Barton deserved a life sentence.