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Pictures refute alleged "secret special assignment" during Black Forest Fire

Pictures refute alleged "secret special assignment" during Black Forest Fire

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The El Paso County Sheriff's Office released photos and radio dispatch that refuted allegations of a "secret special assignment" it conducted during the Black Forest Fire.

An investigator hired by the Black Forest Fire Board said in a report that a "key piece of equipment" from Falcon Fire along with a truck from Black Forest Fire Department were pulled off assignments to protect a particular home.

In the report, the firefighters said they were ordered to go out on a special assignment to protect El Paso County Sheriff's Office commander Robert McDonald's home in Black Forest. The anonymous firefighters said the person's name and address were "not to be aired over any radio channel."

The report said the firefighters tried to refuse the assignment. The firefighters were told the order "came 'from the top' meaning the incident commander," said investigator Dave Fisher in the report.

The report pointed out the home to the south of McDonald's property was burned. The investigator called the decision reckless and irresponsible.

The El Paso County Sheriff's Office said the photos and radio dispatch it released Tuesday prove the "special secret assignment" didn't exist.

The time-stamped photos were taken on a game camera on McDonald's property.

8:32 p.m. - McDonald is photographed on his property carrying a chainsaw to do last-minute mitigation.

8:55 p.m. - McDonald pulls out his driveway.

9:29 p.m. - The camera photographs embers flying near McDonald's home.

9:37 p.m. - The camera captured the glow of the home next door going up in flames.

11:34 p.m. - First fire department vehicle arrives at home.

11:47 p.m. - Second fire truck backs into driveway.

11:51 p.m. - Camera captures Sheriff Terry Maketa pulling into driveway with his wife in the passenger seat.

12:26 a.m. - Firefighters staged at home.

3:49 a.m. - Fire trucks pull out of driveway.

When asked why firefighters stayed at the home for four hours, El Paso County Sheriff spokesperson Jeff Kramer said they were staged there to be ready if called to fight the fire nearby.

Radio dispatch shows firefighters talk about fire in the area over the radio at 10:35 p.m. 

Kramer said there was a specific reason the firefighters were staged on that property.

"Commander McDonald's home was well mitigated.  This created a safe place to be able to deploy from," said Kramer.

KRDO NewsChannel 13 requested an interview with the investigator Monday and Tuesday but the requests weren't answered.

The investigator also underlined in the excerpt about the "special secret assignment" that "Sheriff Maketa and two females were in the second SUV."

The same game camera shows Maketa and his wife pull into the drive. The car's inside lights were on so the second seat and trunk were illuminated. There was no one else in the car. Maketa said his wife accompanied him each night to help him navigate through a new subdivision that didn't register on his GPS.

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