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Terry Barton Charged With Setting Largest Wildfire in Colorado History

Aired June 17, 2002 - 11:02   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: A Forest Service veteran is scheduled in court in Denver this hour. Terry Barton is charged with setting the largest wildfire in Colorado's history. CNN's Rusty Dornin is in Denver and filed this late update.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not only was it a U.S. forest service employee who started this fire, it was the employee who reported the fire in the first place on June 8th. Thirty-eight-year- old Terry Barton has worked for the Forest Service for 18 years. She was patrolling the forest, looking for illegal campfires, when apparently she stopped to start a little campfire of her own, burning a letter from her estranged husband. She apparently tried to put the letter out and drove away. But only to return and find out that the fire had spread.

She then was frightened and reported the fire and told investigators that she had come upon the fire after it had already started. Investigators found so many inconsistencies in her story after several interviews, it was then over the weekend that Barton did breakdown and admit that she had indeed set the fires.

Coloradans, of course, very upset to learn that a forest service employee and a person from Colorado set these fires, which have consumed 103,000 acres here. Many people say they have little empathy for her no matter what kind of emotional state she was in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They want to lynch her. They want to string her up and lynch her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well it's aggravating. Real aggravating to know that somebody from this area and that profession...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody made a mistake. Somebody wasn't thinking. Sounds like the personal papers. It was under a little bit of stress or something and just wasn't thinking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of angry individuals. You know it's sick, and especially the fact that she's part of the forest service makes it even worse.

DORNIN: Barton is making her initial appearance in federal court in Denver today. She could face up to 15 years in prison and a half million-dollar fine. A few days ago she had given an interview to one of the local newspapers talking about the fact that she had reported fire. She told the interviewer she hadn't been sleeping well, and certainly now people can understand why.

Rusty Dornin, CNN, Denver.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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