Terry Barton Accused Of Starting Largest Fire In State
12:16 AM, Nov 27, 2002
Terry Barton, the woman charged with starting the largest fire in the history of the state, has made a plea agreement with prosecutors, 7NEWS reported Wednesday.
7NEWS has learned that Barton will plead guilty, but it is unknown to what charges since the details of the agreement have not been released.
Sources confirm to 7NEWS that Barton, in her plea bargain, will receive a sentence of at least five years in prison. The deal is subject to the approval of federal judge Richard Matsch.
Terry Barton's lawyer, Warren Williamson, who filed an intent to plea in federal court on Wednesday, refused to provide details of the notice.
It is expected that the details about the plea agreement will be released Dec. 6, the television station said.
It is unknown how the mountain community that was so affected by the wildfire will react to Barton's deal and her possible punishment.
The 38-year-old former U.S. Forest Service worker is facing federal charges of setting fire to timber in a national forest, damaging federal property and making false statements to investigators.
But the key question in the case remains vague: Did Barton really burn a letter from her estranged husband in a fire pit and accidentally start a forest fire or did she set the blaze to intentionally burn the forest?
Are you happy that prosecutors have made a plea deal with Terry Barton?Yes, the government didn't have a strong case and she could have been found not guilty. This way, she faces some jail time.No. I wanted her to face the maximum punishment.I don't know. I have to find out more details about the deal.
The Hayman Fire started near Lake George on June 8. It grew quickly, fueled by heavy winds and tinder-dry drought conditions. Within two weeks, it had burned more than 137,000 acres and destroyed 133 homes.
Thousands of people had to evacuate while firefighters struggled for weeks to put the massive fire out.
The fire cost more than $39 million to fight and burned in four counties including Jefferson, Douglas, Park and Teller counties. Long-term restoration of the area burned by the fire could top $150 million, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
Barton was released from a halfway house in September, provided that she was monitored electronically.
Judge Matsch, who allowed her release, said at the time that Barton's "statements do not support the showing of criminal intent" and that "the government does not have an overwhelming case."
Barton was in charge of patrolling the area around Lake George to look for illegal campfires. She had been a seasonal forestry employee for 18 years and a probationary full-time employee for a year until she was fired six days after her arrest.
In her statements to fire investigators, Barton claims to have burned a letter from her husband in a campfire ring and that the small fire quickly grew out of control.
Prosecutors alleged that she intentionally started the fire at a forest service campsite, then reported a suspicious vehicle in the area to throw investigators off her trail.
An analysis of the fire pit could not prove conclusively whether there was or wasn't a letter burned to ignite the fire.