Fire Weather Warning issued March 30 at 8:18AM MDT expiring March 30 at 6:00PM MDT in effect for: Cheyenne, Kit Carson
The U.S. Forest Service technician accused of starting the largest wildfire in the history of Colorado pleaded innocent to four charges in federal court in Denver Thursday. A federal judge agreed Thursday to allow Terry Lynn Barton, 38, to post bail so that she can be released from custody. The judge ruled that if Barton could put up $600,000 bail, 10 percent of it in cash or property, she would be released to a halfway house under supervised release. The judge said that Barton is no threat to the community and she had a clean record prior to her arrest. Barton was indicted Wednesday on four federal counts that she deliberately set the Hayman Fire. Prosecutors said the 38-year-old at first reported finding an out-of-control campfire in the Pike National Forest and even called in a description of a vehicle seen leaving the area. About one week later, faced with contradictory forensic evidence, she recanted her story and told investigators that she was burning an upsetting letter from her estranged husband in a campfire ring when the fire got out of control. However, officials later revealed that they had doubts about her version of how the fire started. Federal investigators claim that the fire didn't originate in the fire ring but somewhere outside it. Their opinion is that she staged the fire in the fire ring to make it look like the fire began there, 7NEWS reported. The charges against Barton are "willfully and without authority" setting fire to timber in a national forest, damaging federal property, injuring a firefighter and endangering others, and using fire to commit a felony. The grand jury indictments replace the charges that were filed on Sunday, the day she was arrested. The grand jury dropped a charge alleging that Barton lied to federal investigators, and added the more serious charges that by means of fire she "directly and proximately caused personal injury to (firefighter) Ryan Beyer, among others and created substantial risk of injury to others." Authorities would not speculate publicly what Barton's motive or intent was when she allegedly started the fire. Meantime, a family friend of Barton's is defending her actions, saying that Barton may have accidentally started the fire but she did not do it intentionally. "Even though she did not admit to the fire immediately, she is pretty much the sole support of these two girls and she was scared of what probably, what the consequences will be, losing her job and that is pretty much the background behind that. She is a good girl, her intentions were not to hurt anybody or anything," said family friend Connie Work. If convicted on all counts, she could face up to 65 years in prison and a $1 million fine. At her detention hearing today, U.S. Attorney John Suthers will ask that Barton be kept in jail, without bail, until trial, because otherwise "she would return to a community in which there is considerable hostility towards her and she could be considered a flight risk." The Teller County Sheriff ordered a barricade leading to Barton's home south of Florissant after receiving several "credible threats" against Barton's home and her family, 7NEWS reported.