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Front Page » June 20, 2002 » Opinion » Shouldn't the rules apply to everyone?
Published 4,424 days ago

Shouldn't the rules apply to everyone?


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By RICHARD SHAW
Staff reporter

Ever since I was a kid, I was told that rules apply to everyone.

If you chew gum in class you get taken down the principal's office.

If you speed in your car and you get caught you get a ticket and pay a fine.

If you steal from someone you go to jail.

If you break the rules you pay.

Everyone knows that or should. It seems simple and even a little naive for someone to not understand this (or maybe I am naive for thinking everyone should understand it).

Yet something shocking happened this past week that deals with this very concept.

A forest service employee named Terry Barton admitted to accidentally starting the fire that has been raging near Denver, Colo. and burned over 120,000 acres. Seems she had a few letters from her estranged husband she needed to get rid of and decided to burn them at a fire ring in an improved campground in the area she was supposed to be patrolling to keep people from starting fires of any kind, anywhere.

The fire got out of control before she knew it and poof went the Pike National Forest.

While she now languishes in jail facing not only up to 15 years in prison and a half a million dollar fine, everyone should take notice. She is responsible for the death of countless animals, the destruction of a beautiful forest and valuable watershed as well as the destruction of 55 homes.

Here is a person who supposedly knew the danger of fire in the area and yet still broke the rules.

I have to ask why she is any different than those in eastern Utah who I have seen burning leaves, branches and ditch banks in the last couple of weeks.

In March and April that was accepted. It is an annual ritual which agriculturally is needed.

But once the fire season was closed on May 6, three weeks earlier than normal because of the high fire danger, what excuse do they have. The early closure alone should be a clue, but apparently these people don't have one.

As I drive around Carbon County covering various stories and taking photos I am shocked at how many people are burning stuff. The other day I was out for two hours and saw three people with open fires.

One, in Spring Glen, was burning leaves by his house. His hose was ready and he had a shovel. But I bet he didn't have a permit. His wife was sitting in a lounge chair nearby reading a book.

In another place I saw a farmer burning a ditch bank. All he had was a shovel nearby. But there was also a lot of dry grass too. One slip up and it could have easily raced across the field toward the homes on the other side.

Finally I saw a lady burning trash in a barrel. There was no hose, no shovel and after she lit it she just walked into her house. I sat in my vehicle and just watched as the flames threw ashes all over the place, with the wind pushing them into a nearby weed patch.

Not one of these people should have been burning, but they did. Not one was following the rules. They were just ignoring them.

What made them think they were better than anyone else. Obviously the threat of being cited isn't enough to keep them from lighting matches to something that could set a large part of this tinder box county off like a fire cracker.

I just hope everyone that considers open burning in this dry year will consider the consequences; not the penalties of being visited by a fire marshal or a police officer, but the real consequences.

Just like Terry Barton is.

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June 20, 2002
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