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Sheriff says claims about Black Forest Fire are unsubstantiated, out of line

Sheriff: No evidence Black Forest Fire "intentionally" set

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Sheriff Terry Maketa said Thursday the Black Forest Fire Chief's claim that the Black Forest fire was intentionally set was not true and couldn't be substantiated.

On Tuesday night Black Forest fire Chief Bob Harvey said, "It's clear this was human-caused and it appears the elements of intentional fire setting would be prevalent in the Black Forest fire."

The comment ignited a war of words between the sheriff and the fire chief. Maketa said his office does not know if someone intentionally started the Black Forest fire, and he says neither does Harvey.

"Without access to evidence, without collecting any evidence, he is completely and totally out of line. I think it's a true disservice to the community," said Maketa.

KRDO NewsChannel 13 asked Harvey if he would like to elaborate on his statement that the fire was intentional or respond to the Sheriff's comments.

"I'm not going to comment anymore at this point," said Harvey.

However, Maketa had strong words about the comments from Harvey.

"He has no reason to be involved, he has no skill set, has no expertise and nothing to offer the investigative team," said Maketa. "To go out and provide this information when he has not read any case reports, collected any evidence -- this (is) mere speculation.  It undermines the hundreds of hours of actual investigation."

Maketa said there is not enough evidence to rule it was arson. He said if it was very clearly arson investigators would have been able to determine that months ago.

"It's when you don't have those key pieces of evidence to support that theory that they become very complicated and drawn out. You're basically searching for a needle in a haystack," said Maketa.

There are rumors circulating that arrests have been made in the case. Maketa said no arrests have been made.

Maketa looked over Harvey's resume. He said there is nothing on the fire chief's resume that said he has a background in arson investigation.

"He has no reason to be involved.  He has no skill set, has no expertise.  And nothing to offer the investigative team," said Maketa.

Maketa said as soon as investigators have answers and evidence to support those answers, information will be released to the public. For 5 months investigators have searched for answers as to who set the fire and if it was intentional.

"That's what the community wants answered, that's what we want answered," said Maketa.

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