Terry Barton has been offered a plea bargain for allegedly starting the Hayman fire, Colorado’s most destructive fire in history. If she accepts, she faces six years in jail.
Does this seem like justice? Would the families of the five firefighters who died and two others who were seriously injured while traveling to the Hayman fire find this just? Around 133 families lost their homes, and a small business was destroyed. Do they think six years is justifiable? We doubt it.
Let’s not forget the wild animals that died, and the strain caused on the metro area’s water supply after many streams became clogged with debris caused by the fire.
Also, the state spent millions fighting the blaze. And who pays the bill? All of us taxpayers.
Six years in jail hardly seems like a punishment when you compare it to the damage she caused.
This punishment seems more like one we typically give celebrities. But Barton’s crime was far more serious than Winona Ryder’s stealing of clothes and other merchandise from Saks Fifth Avenue in Los Angeles. Ryder’s crime was also victimless – despite Saks’ claim that they were the victims, no one was hurt – and that is not the case with Barton’s crime.
Plus, Barton’s actions following the fire should give us no reason to take it easy on her. She reported that she saw someone fleeing the scene shortly after the fire, and she told investigators she tried to put it out. She played the role of hero when she was actually the villain. As a forest service employee, she should have known the possible consequences of burning a letter inside a dry forest.
She could have made many people, those directly affected by the fire and those horrified by it, feel better knowing how it was caused. And she could have saved face had she admitted to it from the moment the fire started.
We should not reward her deceit.