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Burning issues: In Colorado, firefighters are battling the state’s biggest and costliest blaze ever and most likely a seasonal Forest Service employee with a shifty story will take the heat. First she says she discovered the fire, then she admits to accidentally lighting it, and next prosecutors will try to get her to say she did it on purpose. In Montana, the flames may be all in our minds but they burn just as hot.

Governor Judy Martz testified at an ethics hearing called this week over her purchase of 80 acres for $24,000 from the Atlantic Richfield Co. in 1999. The Democrats complain it was a sweetheart deal because Arco originally paid almost three times as much for the property and because ARCO has a river basin to clean up under her watch.

Since then covenants have been added to the title and current estimates of the land value range from $14,700 to $37,000. Clearly, whoever pays the fiddler gets to call the tune. Martz paid for the low estimate. Democrats paid for the high estimate.

Both the accused firestarter and Martz have pointed fingers at the men in their lives but for opposite reasons. Initially the Colorado woman claimed she was burning a Dear Joan letter from her estranged husband, while Martz claimed her primary motive for completing the transaction was to please her husband.

To make matters worse, another wildfire in western Colorado is growing too. So not only is Denver choking on the smoke, but Durango, the mountain town more akin to Missoula than the city on the eastern front, is also facing a ring of fire.

Likewise, Martz is facing the flames on other fronts. She further alienated the educational establishment when she lauded home-schoolers for being cheap and religious, as though public schools burn cash and preach atheism. Then it was revealed that Martz continued to seek advice from her former policy advisor while he was serving time for his role in the drunk driving death of House Majority Leader Paul Sliter.

But don’t let all this ruin your summertime groove. Just because Colorado looks like Montana in 2000, people there are still allowed to enjoy themselves. Colorado’s Governor Bill Owens amended a ban on outdoor fires to exempt barbecues in public parks, though fireworks are still on the no-no list.

One occasion worth celebrating this week is the summer solstice on Friday and the full moon on Monday. For you pagans, astrologers and other curious interlopers, it’s an auspicious coincidence between two orbits and an opportunity to mark a change in season and phase.

For instance, you could take part in activities of the Global Justice Action Summit, which include a Solstice/Full Moon Peace Gathering in Glacier National Park.

Between now and the equinox, expect Montana to dry out after this raining spring and expect the real fire season to commence soon. And maybe in the next phase of her term, Martz will discover a path out of these flames.

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