- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 29, 2002

Noble: The firefighters across the West. It takes a certain sort of insanity, or desperation, to jump into a battle with a superheated monster shooting smoke and flames in all directions. But it's a battle that has to be won, if homes are to be saved and lifestyles are to be maintained. And whether the firefighters parachute, or hike, or even drive into the line of fire, they're all putting themselves at risk for the sake of their fellow citizens. President Bush made the same point earlier this week while visiting a group of firefighters in Arizona, calling them, "People that are just working their hearts out on behalf of their fellow citizens… . They're not quitting until this thing is whipped."
The firefighters have every reason to be whipped. Already this year, they've helped to contain over 250 large wildfires. Nor does their danger come exclusively from the fires they confront. Last week, four firefighters from Oregon were killed in transit to Colorado's Hayman fire when the van they were being driven in ran off the road.
That hasn't deterred the rest of their fellow firefighters, though. And for every infernal arsonist whose eyes are kindled by the thought of lighting the skies with notoriety (see below), there are 100 courageous Americans ready to leap through smoky skies into battle with the inferno.
Knaves:
Firestarter Terry Barton.
Not since Drew Barrymore began lighting up her neighborhood in Stephen King's "Firestarter" has a femme fatale ignited this much dismay, and for good reason.
The Hayman fire that Ms. Barton claims she didn't set blossomed into the biggest blaze in Colorado's history. It burned through 135,000 acres, torched more than 618 structures and smoked nearly 9,000 people from their homes. So fierce was the burning that at times the entire state was afire.
Ms. Barton claims her heated attempt to destroy a letter from her estranged husband John simply got out of control. However, given that she is an 18-year veteran of the Forest Service and that the letter was only two pages long, either she forgot everything she learned about fire safety or the paper was the size of some of Colorado's more scenic mountains.
Her actions were at best irresponsible and at worst felonious. Either way, Ms. Barton is entitled to her day in court preferably one that has been fireproofed beforehand. In the interim, she is staying at a halfway house, where her minders are keeping their extinguishers handy.


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