Making History

The Hayman Fire was a forest fire that started between the Kenosha Mountains and Pikes Peak on June 8, 2002, and became the largest fire in Colorado’s recorded history. Hundreds of forestry officials and firefighters fought the fast-moving inferno, which caused nearly $40 million in damages, burned 133 homes and forced the evacuation of 5,340 people. Smoke could be seen and smelled nearly 200 miles away. The fire wasn’t contained until July 2, 2002 and was finally brought under control on July 18, 2002.

It was determined that the fire was started by arson when a federal forestry officer named Terry Barton attempted to burn a letter from her estranged husband inside a campfire ring, ignoring a fire ban being enforced because of severe drought. She also wanted to play the hero by saving the forest, but that is far from what happened. The results of her actions were tragic. The fire quickly spread out of the campfire ring and eventually torched over 138,000 acres and burned across four different counties. The fire she started killed not only animals but also five firefighters and Ann Dow, a mother of three who died of an acute asthma attack caused by smoke inhalation.

A federal grand jury indicted Barton on four felony counts of arson.  Barton ultimately pleaded guilty to the arson charge and was given a six-year sentence in federal prison. She was also ordered to reimburse the federal government $14.6 million. The State of Colorado sentenced her to 15 years probation in addition to her federal sentence.

The trees and vegetation will grow back. The animals will return. The property will eventually be rebuilt, but there is nothing Terry Barton can do to make up for the loss of life caused by her rash actions that June day in 2002. And although we can’t bring back those who have been lost, we can honor them … by remembering.


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