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Black Forest hiring "independent" investigator

Black Forest to hire independent investigator

BLACK FOREST, Colo. - Accusations first aired in a KRDO Target 13 Investigation, are prompting action by the Black Forest Fire Rescue Protection District Board of Directors.

"The board has asked legal counsel to engage an independent investigator to obtain official records and interview responding firefighters to confirm the reports of seemingly unfounded accusations that surfaced last month," said Board Chairman Eddie Bracken.

Read from a written statement, Bracken then declined to answer any questions from the nearly 20 Black Forest residents who waited over two hours for a chance to ask questions to Chief Bob Harvey.

Questions have been raised by El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa regarding judgment calls in the early hours of the Black Forest Fire.  Maketa says Harvey didn't allow 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," said El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa. "I'm not saying it's all on him, or the fact that he didn't delegate, I'm just saying, you have to be aggressive."

Ever since Chief Harvey gave an exclusive interview to KRDO, concluding the fire was intentionally set, which then set a storm of accusations from the Sheriff and other agencies, Harvey has repeatedly denied requests to respond to any questions.

Before the Board of Directors went into a closed door executive session, Black Forest Fire Captain Larry Bell read a statement to the Board.

"We would like to advise you of our full support of Chief Harvey in reference to the allegations.  We the staff served the district at the time of the fire, we witnessed Chief Harvey's leadership and it was outstanding," Bell said.

While each member of Harvey's staff signed the statement, residents who showed up want Harvey to answer for himself.

"Just makes you feel like he's guilty," said Picker Munson.

"Can you imagine the frustration when we can't even get one simple question answered," said Ron Pedron.

Board Chairman Eddie Bracken said the "independent investigator" should have answers to the accusations within 30 days or sooner.

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