Ex-forestry worker gets jail time for fire

Feb. 21, 2003 at 6:58 PM

DENVER, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Former U.S. Forest Service employee Terry Barton was sentenced to six years in prison Friday for starting a wildfire in Colorado last summer, the largest wildfire in the state's history.

Barton, 38, was charged with setting the Hayman fire that burned 133 homes and 138,000 acres of forest southwest of Denver, causing $13 million in damage. It took firefighters a month to put out the fire.

Barton pleaded guilty last December to federal charges of setting timber on fire and making false statements to federal investigators. Two other charges were dropped as part of the plea agreement with the U.S. attorney.

During sentencing Friday, U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch rejected a request from the U.S. attorney that Barton pay nearly $15 million in restitution.

U.S. Attorney John Suthers said later that the government might seek restitution through a civil suit but he did not say how much money might be sought.

Barton has also pleaded guilty to a state arson charge in connection with the fire. Sentencing in that case is scheduled for March 5.

Barton said she was burning a letter from her estranged husband June 8 in a campfire ring in the Pike National Forest when the fire got out of control. She initially told investigators that she had discovered the fire after smelling smoke in the area. She was supposed to be patrolling for fires because of a burn ban in the area.

Barton, who was fired by the forest service after her arrest, reports to federal prison March 24.

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