USA — The Forest Service is not liable for Colorado’s largest and most destructive wildfire, a federal judge presiding over a civil case ruled Tuesday.
The Hayman Fire blackened 138,000 acres, destroyed 133 homes and forced more than 8,000 people to evacuate.
State Farm and other insurance companies had sued the Forest Service, seeking to cover the $7 million-plus they paid out in claims from the 2002 Hayman Fire. They argued that the Forest Service was negligent and that Terry Barton, a Forest Service employee, was not properly trained and also negligent in the way she tried to suppress the fire.
Chief U.S. District Judge Wiley Daniel on Tuesday said the Forest Service is not negligent and the Forest Service does not owe the insurance company money.
The judge ruled in favor of the government saying Terry Barton was not acting in the scope of her employment when she started the fire and, essentially, the Forest Service did everything possible to extinguish the fire, said U.S. Attorney spokesman Jeff Dorschner.
The insurance companies had argued that if Barton had been properly trained as a Forest Service employee and known what to do when the fire broke out, it wouldn’t have gotten so far out of control.
Barton pleaded guilty to state and federal arson charges and served six years in prison. She was released in June.
Barton was tasked with the job of enforcing the fire ban in the Pike National Forest when she said she burned a letter in a campfire ring. She said she thought the fire was out when she drove away. It was only later, when she was driving by the site, that she realized that the flames had escaped and grown out of control, she said.Previous Stories: