Sheriff, fire chief clash over fire information

Staff report
Posted

According to a statement issued by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, Black Forest Fire Chief Bob Harvey was too quick to call the cause of the Black Forest fire an arson.

“Sheriff Terry Maketa was shocked to see recent reports in the local news media where Black Forest Fire Chief Bob Harvey was quoted concerning the active investigation into the cause of the Black Forest fire. On more than one media source, Chief Harvey was quoted as saying the cause of the fire had been determined to be ‘intentional,’” the statement said.

Maketa offered these comments concerning what he called “inappropriate remarks.”

“Do not buy into Chief Harvey’s claims until it’s confirmed by the actual agency that has been the lead of the investigation and will base its findings on indisputable scientific evidence that can withstand the scrutiny of the criminal justice system. Right now that isn’t the case. His comments are nothing more than an attempt to mislead the public and a mere witch hunt. Numerous national experts and federal resources have been involved in this investigation and have not and cannot substantiate Chief Harvey’s unqualified knee-jerk claims.

‘Human-caused’ has been known for a long time but this chief is not involved in the investigation nor qualified to offer legal and scientific evidence.

He does not know the point of origin and has been less than truthful about other circumstances with this disaster and just may be merely covering his own mishandling of this event in an attempt to avoid responsibility for allowing the fire to get out of hand.

Furthermore, this chief didn’t even know homes were burning at a time several were engulfed and never even requested evacuations of nearby households as the fire rapidly grew out of control, clearly placing citizen’s safety in jeopardy. It’s an injustice that he has chosen to jump to these unjustified and inconclusive assumptions without any effort to coordinate with local investigative authorities that have expended extensive resources to identify the cause and manner of this serious tragedy. Chief Harvey’s comments are reckless, irresponsible and lack what is in the best interests of the community following this tragedy,” said a statement from the sheriff’s office that was distributed on Nov. 21.

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