The premiere fire that year was the Hayman which burned 138,000 acres and 133 homes in 20 days. It still holds the record for being Colorado's largest wildfire ever. Most of the fire (72%) stayed on the Pike National Forest south and west of Denver and northwest of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Enough fire escaped national forest lands to cause significant private damage.
Beginning in 1998 La Nina brought below-normal precipitation and unseasonably dry air masses to the Colorado Front Range. Conditions degraded year after year in the predominantly ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir forests becoming drier with each passing season. In the Summer of 2002 the fuel moisture conditions were among the driest seen in at least the past 30 years.
A U.S. Forest Service worker, Terry Lynn Barton, started the fire in a USFS campground as she patrolled under a no-burn order. A federal grand jury charged Barton on four felony counts including willfully and maliciously destroying U.S. property and causing personal injury.