COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - After two months of petitions, meetings, and investigations, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa had his department, over several weeks; put together a comprehensive timeline which includes audio of 911 calls and photos.
"This really became a controversy back in November when Chief Harvey announced it was deliberately set," Sheriff Maketa said.
Soon after Harvey made that statement to KRDO, Maketa fired back accusing Harvey of misleading the public and also blasting the Black Forest Fire Chief for his handling of the fire.
"The truth is out there. If you look back at their press releases and you look back at their claims there is nothing to support it," Maketa said.
An example Maketa says is when timeline shows that at 2:18 p.m., Larkspur FD radios in to tell Harvey they are available to help. Harvey responds they should keep their ears open in case they are needed. But in a press release last month, the Board of Directors of the Black Forest Fire/Rescue District said at 2:18 p.m. was when they considered the fire was officially out of control.
Also, despite the rapid and dangerous spread of the fire the first evacuations weren't ordered until 2:46 p.m., over an hour after firefighters began their battle. And the order doesn't even come from Harvey.
"First responders were unnecessarily put in harm's way. It wasn't necessary. Get people moved out, clear it out," Maketa said. "Evacuations should have begun immediately. It should have been among the first priorities."
While the controversy began because Maketa says Harvey undermined his investigation with his assertion of how the fire started, all the added attention has actually ended up helping his investigators.
"With the attention this has drawn lately, we have come up with some new information and some more witnesses and we're making progress that I'm real satisfied with," Maketa said.
Maketa says he is close to announcing a determination about a cause.
A PR firm sent this statement for the Black Forest Fire Department:
"In light of Sheriff Terry Maketa's news release today, Black Forest Fire/Rescue has received requests for interviews. As you are no doubt aware, Black Forest Fire/Rescue initiated an investigation in late 2013, which is ongoing. We will continue to refrain from public comment until our investigators' work is complete.
We have yet not reviewed the Sheriff's statement and timeline, but do plan to provide it to the investigative team for review; doubtless it does contain some information that may coincide with what our team is finding.
We do question why the Sheriff felt it necessary to issue his timeline at this point, given that the investigation and internal review of matters related to the Black Forest Fire is ongoing. Sheriff Maketa has met with our investigator and is cooperative. "