RENO, Nevada - After months of "no comment" and un-returned phone calls to various KRDO Newschannel 13 reporters, Black Forest Fire Chief Bob Harvey spoke on the record Wednesday afternoon.
All it took was flying 700 miles to Reno, Nevada to hear Chief Harvey give a presentation on the "Lessons Learned from the Black Forest Fire," at the annual Wildland Urban Interface Conference.
"The cards were stacked against me," Harvey said to several dozen firefighters in the Peppermill Resort ballroom.
The presentation alongside Falcon Fire Marshall Vernon Champlin, gave five reasons why the Black Forest Fire was the most destructive in Colorado history.
-Limited community participation
-Limited owner participation
-Extreme fire behavior
-The built environment
Harvey says the biggest obstacle after the extreme fire weather with changing winds and low humidity, was the fact residents didn't mitigate their homes and property well enough.
"We need stronger fire codes and people need to take more responsibility for mitigation and creating a survivable space," Harvey said.
Some lessons Harvey says he learned was to have more pre-printed maps to distribute, have a voice recorder to document where and what he was doing and to involve law enforcement earlier to plan for evacuations.
After the speech was over and several firefighters had shaken his hand, I approached Harvey to discuss what wasn't talked about in the report: the independent investigation paid for by the Black Forest Fire Protection district. He answered what he said he was allowed to talk about.
"Why did it take me coming all the way to Reno for you to answer our questions?" I asked.
"I don't know if I can answer that," Harvey responded.
Harvey says the Black Forest Fire Board has directed him not to talk about the investigation.
"They fulfilled the request of some citizens for an investigation. We're not going to respond to anything. The board hired the team to do the investigation, they conducted it, end of story. There's not going to be any back and forth," Harvey said.
Asked about some of the accusations made in the Black Forest report, including alleged preferential treatment for a Sheriff's office Commander, Harvey said it's what happens when there is an investigation.
"When you make accusations, an investigation occurs and sometimes you see the investigation opens different doors," Harvey said.
As for the perceived lack of evidence and conflicting information in the report, Harvey says the Black Forest Board stands by the report.
"I had absolutely nothing to do with the report. I never met the investigators previously. I feel that's imperative to have that neutrality and I feel the investigator is an extremely ethical and moral man," Harvey said.
Harvey says that if any resident has any questions they can stop by his office any time for a meeting, they don't have to follow him to Reno.
Harvey also says he has not read the entire report from the investigator hired by the Black Forest Fire Board.