COLORADO SPRINGS — On June 8, 2002, one of the most devastating fires in Colorado history began to burn.
A US Forest Service case study notes the fire was called in at just before 5 p.m. that day, in an area south of Tarryall Creek and Highway 77 near Tappan Mountain, north of Lake George. The fire involved Park, Jefferson, Douglas, and Teller Counties.
The fire, which was human caused, burned for 20 days, scorching more than 138,000 acres and destroying 132 homes and hundreds of other structures. Six people died, including five firefighters who died in a traffic accident on June 21, 2002 while they were traveling to the Hayman fire from Oregon.
According to Denver news outlets and CNN, a US Forest Service worker, Terry Lynn Barton, admitted to starting the fire, but said it was an accident. Barton claimed that on the day of the fire, she “burned a letter from her estranged husband.” However, evidence later made public cast doubt on that story.
Barton pled guilty to arson charges, spent time in jail, and was ordered to pay $42,501,424.55 in restitution.
Years later, firefighters touring the burn scar left behind, remembered the shock they felt when responding to the Hayman fire.
“Even for the seasoned veterans at the time, it was something they hadn’t seen a lot of.” said Robert Dungan with the Northeast Teller Fire Department. “It was kind of intimidating for all of us.”
Since then, people in the area have been relieved to see new growth in the area.
“Last spring was the first spring that I’ve ever looked out, and I didn’t see black, and in spots there was some new aspen growth,” said Jean Blaisdell of Community Wildfire Protection Plans in 2013. “You could see some green, but for the most part it’s just as black as it was.”