Sheriff's Office Responds To Black Forest Fire Investigation

The El Paso County Sheriff's Office has responded to results of an investigation into how the Black Forest fire was handled, saying it "contains many opinions and general information not based on facts that can be substantiated by actual evidence."

In a news release, the sheriff's office said the report summary released Wednesday was inaccurate regarding some specific events that took place in the early hours of the fire.

The full text of the news release is as follows:

The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office has reviewed the executive summary containing the findings of the independent investigator that the Black Forest Fire District Board hired in December 2013 to determine if Black Forest Fire Chief Harvey mismanaged the Black Forest Fire during its early stages. The summary is general in nature and omits many specific times of significant actions and events. The decision to launch such an inquiry rests with the Board and the results are an internal matter surrounding an employee of the Black Forest Fire Department. It is not necessary for the Sheriff’s Office to comment on any employee related decisions the Board may or may not make as a result of the inquiry.

The Sheriff’s Office would be remise however to not address several inaccuracies in this report concerning actual timelines for specific actions and events that took place during the first few hours of the fire on June 11, 2013. A full timeline including radio transmissions was posted on the Sheriff’s Office web site within the first few months of the fire. Today, the Sheriff’s Office has now posted a copy of the Black Forest Fire Board Executive Summary of this investigation and excerpts from this summary in contrast with actual radio transmissions and dispatch timelines that refute the accuracy of this report. Furthermore, the investigator states that Assistant Fire Marshal Scott Campbell declined to interview with the investigator however email documents between Sheriff Maketa and the investigator reveal the Sheriff requested questions from the investigator that Mr. Campbell could answer and those questions were never received. This is another example of the inaccuracies reported by this investigator.

To address the question as to why Sheriff Maketa made such allegations about Chief Harvey’s performance of duty was in direct response to Chief Harvey’s interference with an official investigation into the cause and origin of this fire by his inappropriate and irresponsible statement that the fire was most likely deliberately or intentionally started without any evidence or facts to substantiate such a statement and is another glaring example of his irresponsible actions.

To any extent the Board’s internal investigation deviates from its original intent and speaks to the fire investigation on topics like cause or origin, Sheriff Terry Maketa reminds members of the community his Office is conducting the official investigation. Once all scientific analysis of items of evidence is complete, and all investigative efforts have been concluded, the Sheriff’s Office will eagerly provide information to the public. The information released by the Sheriff’s Office will be grounded by facts and evidence and will withstand the scrutiny of the court if necessary.

It is unfortunate that this report contains many opinions and general information not based on facts that can be substantiated by actual evidence such as radio transmissions and recorded phone calls. Therefore, it is important that the public has the opportunity to review the report and actual evidence so they can form their own conclusions and may refer to El Paso County Sheriff’s Office website to review all of this information.