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Death blamed on Colorado fire

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (CNN) -- The death of a 50-year-old woman has been blamed on the Hayman wildfire, authorities said Monday as crews continued to battle two major fires in the state.

Ann Dow died of an asthma attack caused by smoke inhalation, according to a death certificate issued by the El Paso County Coroner's office.

The certificate was signed by Dow's personal physician, Dr. Ripley Hollister. "She suffered an acute asthma attack that was a consequence of smoke inhalation," Hollister said.

Dow died late in the evening June 10, not long after the Hayman fire erupted in nearby Pike National Forest. "She lived in an area where there was heavy smoke from the wildfire," Hollister said.

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Dow's death is believed to be the first directly linked to that wildfire, which as of Monday had consumed 137,000 acres of Rocky Mountain timberland.

Whether the death would affect the case against Terry Barton, the veteran U.S. Forest Service employee charged with setting the blaze, "it is entirely too early to say," said Jeff Dorschner, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Denver.

Federal prosecutors would have to review "a cadre" of information surrounding Dow's death, including her death certificate and medical records, before deciding whether any federal charges apply, Dorschner said.

Barton already faces 65 years in prison if convicted on a four-count federal indictment last week. She is scheduled to go on trial August 26.

Authorities say Barton admitted she started the fire but said it happened by accident when she angrily burned a letter from her estranged husband at an abandoned campfire site.

Investigators said they determined the fire was deliberately set and alleged Barton tried to disguise it by staging it to "look like an escaped campfire."

The U.S. Forest service reported Monday that firefighters had the upper hand on the Hayman fire, which was 69 percent contained.

About 2,000 people in the area remained under mandatory evacuation orders.

In the southwest corner of the state, near Durango, authorities put residents of another residential neighborhood under orders to evacuate ahead of the Missionary Ridge fire.

Residents in more than 15 other neighborhoods already have been forced to flee. More than 1,700 households were considered threatened by the fire.

Ten new crews were expected to join the fight Monday.

As of Sunday night, the fire had charred 63,466 acres, an increase of about 1,000 acres over a 24-hour period, according to fire information officer Marty O'Toole, but firefighters were moving ahead with building a protective barrier around the blaze.

The latest statistics showed the fire to be 30 percent contained, an increase of 5 percent over a day before.

Containment numbers refer to the progress of a fire-proof line that would eventually encircle the blaze, O'Toole said. To prevent a fire from spreading, crews work to destroy all burnable material around the perimeter of a wildfire, taking into account the height of the flames.

For example, a wildfire with 100-foot flames would require a 150-foot wide fire line, O'Toole said.

It is likely the fire would burn inside the containment lines for some time, he said, "possibly until the snow comes."

Fifth firefighter dies from crash injuries

A fifth person has died of injuries suffered last week in the crash of a van carrying firefighters to the Hayman fire.

Bartholomew Bailey, 20, of Corvalis, Oregon, died Monday after suffering multiple head injuries in the crash, according to Jeff Kirtland, a spokesman at St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction.

Two other firefighters were still hospitalized in serious condition, Kirtland said. They were identified as Brandon Fiala and Anthony Kyle.

The van the men were traveling in crashed Friday near Parachute after the driver lost control, according to a statement from the Colorado Highway Patrol.

The driver, identified as 21-year-old Megan Helm of La Grande, Oregon, was charged Saturday with four counts of careless driving causing death and two counts of careless driving causing serious bodily injury.

The van was part of a convoy of eight vehicles carrying firefighters to the fire lines near Denver, authorities said.




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