Colorado

Dec 10, 2013 7:47 PM by Kirsten Boyd

Chief, Sheriff at odds over Black Forest Fire timeline

The Board of Directors of the Black Forest Fire/Rescue District says it has hired a law enforcement professional to conduct an internal investigation into events surrounding the Black Forest Fire.

Retired Greenwood Village Police commander Dave Fisher will lead that investigation with the assistance of Dave Daley, an operations executive officer at South Metro Fire Rescue in Centennial.

The Board's decision to call for an internal investigation follows a controversy between Black Forest Fire Chief Bob Harvey and El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa over management of the fire response during the early stages of the fire.

"We support our chief and his decision making. We believe this inquiry is an affirmative step toward determining what transpired that fateful day once and for all," said board chairman Edward Bracken.

In a statement to News 5, the Board of Directors of the Black Forest Fire/Rescue District provided this timeline of the response and transition to state command:

Moreover, in an effort to clarify response times, the Board has verified a sequence of events that indicates the fire was first located at 1:45pm that fateful afternoon. Black Forest and Wescott Fire Districts were on scene at 1:47pm, with Colorado Springs units arriving at 1:51pm. The fire was out of control at 2:18pm erupting into a fire storm with a 200 foot flame front. The state took control of operations at 3:10pm. Scott Campbell, El Paso County's Deputy Fire Marshal, was appointed the Type 3 Incident Commander at that time. In this capacity he was working for the State, and not for El Paso County. It is this sequence of events that is in dispute, among other issues.

In response to that timeline, Sheriff Maketa told News 5 it lacks accuracy and provided his own account of the day. According to Maketa, management of the fire was passed from El Paso County to the State at 5:20 p.m. on June 11, 2013. He went on to say the Type 3 Incident Commander wasn't assigned until 8:23 p.m.

Maketa went on to state that, "if their timeline were accurate, it still demonstrates Chief Harvey elected to maintain control of the fire for 52 minutes after they describe the fire as being out of control, erupting into a fire storm with a 200 foot flame."

 

You can read Sheriff Maketa's full statement here:

In their release, the Black Forest Fire District includes a timeline of events which reads as follows:

"Moreover, in an effort to clarify response times, the Board has verified a sequence of events that indicates the fire was first located at 1:45pm that fateful afternoon. Black Forest and Wescott Fire Districts were on scene at 1:47pm, with Colorado Springs units arriving at 1:51pm. The fire was out of control at 2:18pm erupting into a fire storm with a 200 foot flame front. The state took control of operations at 3:10pm. Scott Campbell, El Paso County's Deputy Fire Marshal, was appointed the Type 3 Incident Commander at that time. In this capacity he was working for the State, and not for El Paso County. It is this sequence of events that is in dispute, among other issues."

The timeline that's been offered by the Black Forest Fire District lacks accuracy which is shown by the documents I have included with this release. Attachment 1 is the Assumption of Control which identifies when management of the fire was passed from El Paso County to the State; this occurred at 1720 hours (5:20 p.m.) on June 11, 2013. The document is signed by my Undersheriff, Paula Presley, as well as by County Commissioner Dennis Hisey and State Fire Management Officer Brenda Wasielewski. I passed management of the fire to the State immediately upon receiving it from the Black Forest Fire Department Chief Bob Harvey.

Attachment 2 is a handwritten Delegation of Authority authored by State Fire Management Officer Brenda Wasielewski delegating command of the fire to Scott Campbell as the Type 3 Incident Commander. The document was signed at 2023 hours (8:23 p.m.) on June 11, 2013; a sizeable discrepancy from the 3:10 p.m. time the fire district's timeline asserts. Furthermore, if their timeline were accurate, it still demonstrates Chief Harvey elected to maintain control of the fire for 52 minutes after they describe the fire as being out of control, erupting into a fire storm with a 200 foot flame.

Each of the attachments I've provided and the facts they describe can be supported by eyewitness accounts as well as electronically captured information in our Computer Aided Dispatch System.

A concern which remains unanswered, and is not the focus of the inquiry launched by the fire board, concerns Chief Harvey's comments made on November 20, 2013 where he stated his investigation into the cause of the Black Forest Fire had determine the fire was "intentionally" set. Since that time, he has offered no context or investigative data which supports his claim. The inquiry is narrow in scope and only addresses Chief Harvey's initial response and management of the fire, not any alleged investigation he conducted in the weeks and months that followed or his inappropriate claim about the cause of the fire.

For those matters being addressed by the investigator who has been hired by the board, I will be more than willing to provide any data pertinent to his inquiry, as long as it does not jeopardize our ongoing investigation. Our investigation remains active and we are making progress. Once factual and evidence-supported conclusions have been reached concerning the cause of the Black Forest Fire, the information will be provided to the public immediately. We are working aggressively on our Black Forest Fire After Action Report which will include a timeline of events which can be supported by documentation and electronic time stamps; we expect to release the report in the first quarter of 2014.

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