Fire Victims Frustrated With Lack Of Answers In Black Forest Fire Report

Scene from the Black Forest Fire, June 2013

We may never know how the Black Forest Fire started, or find the person responsible. Investigators confirmed that Tuesday.

The 2013 fire was the most destructive in state history, but the El Paso County Sheriff's Office and the district attorney say they don't have enough evidence to prove it was intentionally set. Without that evidence, they say they can't prosecute anyone on criminal charges.

The sheriff's office says if new evidence surfaces later, the case will be reopened.

Investigators told 11 News that the lack of resolution is difficult for them too.

"It's hard for all of us, I was one of the detectives that were assigned to the case, and it's hard for me to not be able to have the answers," Sgt. Greg White with EPSO said.

Understandably, families who’ve lost everything are frustrated. It's been a 17-month investigation, and the result was a 2,000-page report summarized into just five pages. They're essentially calling it a cold case.

The new report is unsatisfying to so many who lost so much.

“I think all of us that lost property, if somebody did this deliberately we’d like to see them punished because that seems like the right thing, but will there be any material benefit? No, I don't see that," Nigel Thompson told 11 News.

11 News was with Thompson in 2013 when he returned to the rubble of what used to be his home.

"That was just kind of unreal,” Thompson recalled. “All that was left was the stone from our fireplace and everything else...just gone."

What investigators say they do know: the fire was human-caused. Their certainty ends there.

The only clearly established fact was that no natural causes existed and thus the fire was human-caused. A potential cause associated with the metal particles cannot be ruled out, or positively identified. A potential cause associated with an intentional ignition is not supported by the evidence or circumstances, but cannot be completely ruled out. The origin of the fire is in an area that is not
readily accessible from a roadway, allowing an easy escape, as is typical in intentionally set Wildland fires. There was no evidence of any other miscellaneous cause such as blasting, fireworks, welding, target shooting, etc. -Page 6 of report

The report declared the investigation "complete" but stated that the investigation would be renewed "should additional credible information or evidence be found."

It is the intent of the Sheriff’s Office to continue to seek any further information that may someday provide definitive answers as to how the Black Forest Fire was started and who was responsible. -Page 7 of report

The report also says that there is no new evidence to prove the fire was intentionally set--but it still can't be ruled out.

"It's a loose end, left loose for a lot of us, but again, for my family's part, we just have to move forward,” Ted Robertson added.

His family also lost their home in the fire.

The fire was first reported near Shoup Road and Highway 83 at 1:45 p.m. June 11, 2013. The summary of Tuesday's report states that it was 95 degrees that day with low humidity and a steady 23 mph wind. Wind gusts were as high as 40 mph.

The fire was declared 100 percent contained nine days later, but not before killing two people, destroying 489 homes, and scorching 14,280 acres. Insured losses topped $420 million.