Colo. requests $44.5 million for devastating fire
Vail, CO Colorado
DENVER, Colorado ” Prosecutors are asking for $44.5 million in restitution from a former forestry worker who admitted starting the state’s worst wildfire, a 60 percent increase over earlier estimates.
Prosecutors are seeking the money from Terry Lynn Barton, who pleaded guilty to arson for the 2002 Hayman fire. She was released from prison June 2 after a six-year term.
The state originally estimated the damages and firefighting costs at $27.5 million.
John Newsome, district attorney for El Paso and Teller counties, said Friday prosecutors raised the estimate after consulting with insurance companies and victims.
“I acknowledge that that’s a huge amount of money, but in Colorado victims have the right to ask for their monetary damages,” Newsome said. “Because this was the largest fire in Colorado history, of course the damage is huge.”
Asked about Barton’s ability to pay, Newsome said that question is for the judge.
The judge hasn’t ruled on the request.
Barton has no listed phone number and couldn’t immediately be reached.
Separately, Barton has been ordered to pay $14.7 million in restitution to the federal government for damages and costs.
The Hayman fire blackened 138,000 acres, destroyed 133 homes and forced more than 8,000 people to evacuate.
Barton, who was a fire spotter for the U.S. Forest Service, originally claimed she had found an illegal campfire and tried to extinguish it. She later admitted she set the fire by burning a letter from her estranged husband.
She also faces 15 years of state probation, four years of federal probation and 1,500 hours of public service.
Barton’s mother-in-law, Wanitta Barton of Dunlap, Calif., said Terry Barton is living in Colorado Springs and trying to rebuild her life.
“I know she has to find a place to live, she has to find a job and she is doing everything the court requires of her,” she said.
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