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Issue: "Bureaucratic burial," June 29, 2002
A 'deliberately set' western wildfire
70 points | Wildfires in Colorado threatened the suburbs of Denver. The flames have devoured at least 25 homes, displaced more than 5,000 people, and will likely cost more than $50 million to bring under control, which is unlikely to happen before autumn. Several days of favorable weather and the efforts of 2,200 firefighters have allowed firebreaks to be built around about 50 percent of the blaze. But foresters were shocked to discover a human cause for the destruction. Terry Lynn Barton, a 19-year Forest Service technician, confessed she had started the disaster by burning a distressing letter from her estranged husband. Her former pastor, Randy McKinley, said, "She was definitely irresponsible, but she's not a jerk." Government investigators argued in federal court that the fire was "deliberately set and had been staged to look like an escaped campfire." Mrs. Barton, a 38-year-old mother of two, could face a stiff prison sentence for the offense.


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