It’s the latest back and forth about the Black Forest Fire.
Today the Black Forest Fire Protection District released the results of an investigation they paid for after accusations made to KRDO Newschannel 13 by El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa.
Maketa questioned the handling of the fire during the early hours by Black Forest Fire Chief Bob Harvey.
Nowhere, in a report over 2,000 pages long, were there any findings to support the Sheriff.
The investigator, Dave Fisher, concluded Chief Harvey was “called to an impossible situation,” and that he had “provided leadership and guidance” to address the fire.
On two pages, 66 & 67, Fisher dropped a bombshell. The report states firefighters were sent into a dangerous area on a “secret special assignment,” to protect the home of El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Commander Robert McDonald.
The report states that firefighters tried to refuse the order, but were ordered to continue because “it came from the top.”
According to the report, the property was well mitigated and its sprinklers were on, so the trucks never needed to put any water on the commander's house. But, a home directly to the south of McDonald's home was destroyed by the fire.
"Protecting a public official's home at the expense of other residences is poor decision making at best," the report states.
In a press conference lasting over 40 minutes Friday afternoon, Maketa was furious. He called the report garbage and said it should be burned.
“This report does not even make good toilet paper for an elephant,” Maket said.
Maketa said that fire crews were ordered to the street that McDonald’s house sits on. He says different crews were sent around the forest to do the same thing: protect homes.
As to why the firefighters went to McDonald’s house specifically?
“Mr McDonald’s home was well mitigated. Firefighters are going to set up where they're safe. They're not going to go into a thick patch of timber,” Maketa said.
Maketa says the report shouldn’t be considered an investigation.
“Any report that is based on generalities such as a ‘firefighter’ or a ‘person’ or an ‘individual’ with no names is worthless,” Maketa said. “I will say every statement in there is a lie until the author and the investigator shows evidence and proof of who made that statement.”
Maketa says his offices official report should be finished in the next couple of months. He says his investigators are waiting on a lab result from the ATF.
“I promise you when we release our report it will have names, it will have dates and it will have times,” Maketa said.
We requested an interview with Chief Harvey to answer questions about the investigation. He declined.
Black Forest Fire Public Information Officer Kathy Russell said this, “At this point there’s nothing that we have to add that we have not already put into the report."
You can access the report here.