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Black Forest fire victims reflect on arson debate

By Scott Harrison
Published On: Nov 21 2013 08:24:28 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 21 2013 08:41:47 PM CST

Two people who lost their homes in the June wildfire comment on a dispute between the fire chief and sheriff about whether someone accidentally or intentionally ignited the blaze.

Two people who lost their homes in the Black Forest fire said they're not preoccupied about whether someone intentionally or accidentally ignited the blaze.

Sid Webb and Angela Hill responded to the dispute between Black Forest Fire Chief Bob Harvey and El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa about how the fire started.

Harvey announced on Wednesday that he believes arson is the cause.  Maketa strongly disagrees, saying there's not enough evidence to support that.

Webb learned the fate of his rental home before most victims did, as he saw it burning on video recorded from a news helicopter shortly after the fire ignited.

"If (authorities) haven't nailed someone by now, it's going to be more and more difficult," he said.  "I'd just tell them to do the job well.  Do it right and get the right person."

Webb said he still hasn't found a permanent home since the fire.

"I understand that (arson) is not necessarily easy to prove," he said.  "There's a lot of speculation.  There could be a lot of hysteria."

Meanwhile, Hill this week began rebuilding the home she lived in for 20 years, and hopes to move back in next summer.  She said she's surprised that Harvey and Maketa are at odds.

"They hadn't found any accelerants and they thought it was accidental -- definitely human-caused, but accidental," Hill said.  "I'm surprised that things are taking this turn."

Hill said she'd like investigators to share everything they know with the public and resolve the case quickly.

"We just need an answer," she said.  "Something definitive."

Maketa said he recently received "an update of an incremental step toward progress" in the investigation but wouldn't provide details on the nature of that progress.

For many Black Forest fire victims, any progress, no matter how small, is good news.

On Thursday, Colorado Springs police commented briefly on the June 2012 Waldo Canyon fire that destroyed nearly 350 homes.  Police said there are no new developments in that investigation, and that solving the case depends on someone coming forward who either started the fire or knows who did.

As with the Black Forest fire, investigators have determined that a person started the Waldo Canyon fire but have not confirmed whether it was accidental or intentional.

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