COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) – The Black Forest Fire Rescue Protection District Board of Directors is asking an independent investigator to review how the state’s most destructive wildfire was handled after El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa and Black Forest Fire Chief Bob Harvey got into a dispute over handling of the wildfire and the ongoing investigation.
Maketa has accused the fire chief of misrepresenting the department’s response to the fire, which Harvey denied. Harvey accused the sheriff of refusing to cooperate with his fire investigators, impeding the investigation.
The Black Forest Fire started June 11. It killed two people, destroyed 486 homes and damaged 37 other homes in a residential area northeast of Colorado Springs. The fire charred 24 square miles.
The fire department board said Monday it wants an outside investigator to review official records and responding firefighters to rebut what it called “reports of seemingly unfounded accusations.” The board also issued a statement backing the fire chief.
Maketa said the fire chief made some bad calls after the Black Forest wildfire was reported, refusing to call for outside help for two hours.
“Had we gotten the resources and had we gotten to jump on it as quickly as we would have liked to, we would have still lost homes, we would have still lost a lot of timber, but there is a belief that we wouldn’t have seen the devastation that we witnessed,” Maketa said as the dispute escalated last month. Harvey previously told KRDO the fire “appears intentional,” but Maketa said while it was human caused, there’s no evidence it was intentionally set.
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