Black Forest Fire Chief Harvey under fire

Three ponds in Cathedral Pines were not used by fire trucks during the fire. This photo, taken a fews days after the fire, shows some charring on trees in the background but only one of the 100 homes in the Cathedral Pines area was lost during the fire.
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Black Forest Fire Rescue chief Bob Harvey is under more scrutiny. This time from a land developer and El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn.

And once again, Eddie Bracken is defending Harvey’s handling of the heated situation.

On Dec. 3, land developer Dan Potter told KRDO News Channel 13 that water he had stored in three cisterns, or underground reservoirs, in Cathedral Pines could have been used to fight June’s massive blaze. According to Channel 13, Potter said he paid $500,000 to install the cisterns.  Potter also said he was required to do so by Harvey to protect the subdivision’s 100 homes during a fire.

Cathedral Pines is located in the northwest section of Black Forest.

In addition, Potter said he spent $2 million in mitigation.

“(The mitigation) is what saved Cathedral Pines,” said Bracken, president of the Black Forest Fire Rescue board. “There’s no way firefighters would have safely been able to reach those cisterns.

“It was a firestorm by the time the blaze reached his development. There were 200-foot walls of fire moving across the area less than an hour after the fire started. You had tankers dropping water from above and 35 to 40 mph winds. From a safety standpoint there was no way water was going to be used from those cisterns.”

Only one of the 100 homes in the Cathedral Pines area was lost during the fire. The massive blaze claimed two lives and destroyed nearly 500 structures.

“I don’t know why (Harvey) didn’t use (the cisterns) or pass the information onto other agencies,” Potter told Channel 13.  “A couple of days after the fire I met a fire section commander out here. I asked how the cisterns worked; he didn’t even know the cisterns were here.”

According to Bracken, Potter raised the cistern issue at a board meeting.

Attempts by the Tribune to reach Potter were unsuccessful.

Each cistern holds 30,000 gallons.  The three ponds in Cathedral Pines also were not used by fire trucks during the fire. The ponds were used for helicopter basket drops.

“Those cisterns are designed to protect one or two homes, not an entire forest,” Bracken said.

Darryl Glenn, the El Paso County commissioner representing Black Forest, would like to know more about why the cisterns were ignored.

“We need an independent analysis of what occurred,” Glenn said. “Mr. Potter brought up a legitimate point. If the issue was raised that needs to be looked at. We need a definitive determination of what happened.”

Harvey has been under much criticism lately by a number of folks. Among them is El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa and citizens in Black Forest that have taken up a petition asking for Harvey’s dismissal.

“Obviously, these people have personal agendas,” said Bracken, who also believes Channel 13 has also viciously attacked Harvey. “Their agenda is to discredit the districts that fought the fire. All of the districts responded to the fire at a very rapid pace. They came to each other’s assistance.

“Chief Harvey did a lot of good work. Only God and Mother Nature had control of that fire, and man was an interested observer.”

Bracken added that all of the finger pointing has put a wedge in the Black Forest community.

“We’re trying to bring the community back together and heal it,” he said. “Second guessing is not helping.”

The Tribune also tried contacting Chief Harvey for this story, but he did not return phone calls.

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