BLACK FOREST, COLO. - El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa responded critically to a statement made by Black Forest's Fire Chief in which the Chief declared this summer's deadly fire was intentionally set.
Black Forest Fire Chief Bob Harvey made the announcement Wednesday night (11/20/13), saying "yes, it was human caused and appears intentional.
Chief Harvey says he collaborated with "outside experts" and says that they came to the same conclusion many had been suspicious of since June.
"It's clear that this was human caused," Harvey said. "I don't think anybody in the Black Forest area is surprised that this is human caused and probably intentional at all."
However, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said there was no evidence that the fire was intentionally set.
In a media release, Maketa wrote a critical response to Harvey's announcement.
He said, "Do not buy into Chief Harvey's claims until it's confirmed by the actual agency that has been the lead of the investigation and will base its findings on indisputable scientific evidence that can withstand the scrutiny of the criminal justice system. Right now that isn't the case. His comments are nothing more than an attempt to mislead the public and a mere witch hunt."
Maketa conceded that the fire was "human caused", but he said Fire Chief Harvey was not involved in the investigation and thus not "qualified to offer legal and scientific evidence."
Maketa continued, accusing the chief of being "less than truthful about other circumstances with [the] disaster."
Maketa considered that Harvey could be "covering his own mishandling of the event in an attempt to avoid responsibility for letting the fire get out of hand."
After making the announcement, Harvey declined to elaborate on any specific evidence or who the outside experts were that he consulted with before determining the fire was intentional.
He said that he felt an obligation to report what he found to the National Fire Protection Association and the public.
"I think the worst thing is this person still is out there," Harvey said.
The fire started on June 11, 2013 and burned for over a week, scorching more than 14,000 acres. 486 Homes were destroyed, and 37 were damaged.
Two people, Marc Herklotz, 52, and his wife Robin Herklotz, 50, were killed in the fire, as they tried to escape the flames.
The fire cost more than $85 Million, and is considered to be the most destructive fire in the state's history.
So far, no word on any potential suspects.