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UPDATED: Black Forest Fire response inquiry launched

Black Forest Fire response inquiry launched


El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa has issued a response to a news release from the Black Forest Fire District on Tuesday, December 10, 2013.

The fire district's news release included what it says is a confirmed timeline of events on June 11, 2013, which is the day the Black Forest Fire started.

In his response, Sheriff Maketa says the timeline of events provided by the fire district is inaccurate. He provided two documents that he says prove this claim.

Sheriff Maketa says the first document is the Assumption of Control which identifies when management of the fire was passed from El Paso County to the State of Colorado. This happened at 5:20 p.m. on June 11 according to Maketa. The sheriff says that the document is signed by Undersheriff Paula Presley, County Commissioner Dennis Hisey and State Fire Management Officer Brenda Wasielewski. Maketa says he passed management of the fire on to the state immediately after receiving it from the Black Forest Fire Department.

Sheriff Maketa says the second document is a handwritten Delegation of Authority authored by State Fire Management Officer Brenda Wasielewski delegating command of the fire to Scott Campbell as the Type 3 Incident Commander. Maketa says the document was signed at 8:23 p.m. on June 11, 2013.

You can review both documents provided by Sheriff Maketa by clicking "Document 1" and "Document 2" in the related content section of this article.

In his response, Sheriff Maketa says a key concern for him that remains unanswered has to do with comments Black Forest Fire Chief Bob Harvey made to KRDO NewsChannel 13 on November 20, 2013. On that date, Chief Harvey said investigators had determined that the fire was set intentionally. Sheriff Maketa has disputed that claim from the beginning and says Chief Harvey has not been able to provide any data to support it.

Please read our original report below for the timeline of events as provided by the Black Forest Fire District on the morning of Tuesday, December 10, 2013.

Original report:

The Black Forest Fire/Rescue District announced Tuesday (12/10/13) that it has hired a law enforcement professional to conduct an internal investigation into the events surrounding the June 11, 2013 Black Forest Fire.

Retired Greenwood Village Police Commander Dave Fisher has been hired to direct the inquiry. Fisher retired in October after a 29-year career at the suburban Denver department, rising from patrol officer to detective commander and earlier, patrol commander.  Fisher will be assisted by Dave Daley, an operations executive officer at South Metro Fire Rescue in Centennial.

The announcement comes following a Target 13 Investigation that uncovered a controversy between Black Forest Fire Chief Bob Harvey and El Paso county Sheriff Terry Maketa over management of the fire response during the early stages of the fire.

"We support our chief and his decision making. We believe this inquiry is an affirmative step toward determining what transpired that fateful day once and for all," said Black Forest Fire/Rescue District board chairman Edward Bracken.

In a news release, the board says it has also verified a sequence of events that indicates that the fire was first located at 1:45 p.m. on June 11, 2013. The board says Black Forest and Wescott Fire Districts were on scene at 1:47 p.m., with Colorado Springs units arriving at 1:51 p.m. The board says the fire was out of control at 2:18 p.m. erupting into a fire storm with a 200 foot flame front. The state took control of operations at 3:10 p.m. 

Audio recordings obtained by KRDO NewsChannel 13 from the El Paso County Sheriff's Office show the first radio dispatch alerting first responders of a fire in the area came in at 1:43 p.m. Sheriff Maketa said Chief Harvey passed command of the fire at 3:55 p.m. Sheriff Maketa said he immediately passed command to the state at that time.

Scott Campbell, El Paso County's Deputy Fire Marshal, was appointed the Type 3 Incident Commander at that time. In this capacity he was working for the State, and not for El Paso County.

Click the links in the "related content" section of this article to read and watch the Target 13 Investigation that prompted this inquiry.

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