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The community may never know exactly what started the Black Forest Fire

Published On: Jun 10 2014 11:33:52 PM CDT   Updated On: Jun 11 2014 12:15:51 AM CDT

Black Forest Fire After-Action Report Released


The biggest question that remains unanswered after the Black Forest Fire is how it ignited, and the El Paso County sheriff said Tuesday the community may never get a definite answer.

The El Paso County Sheriff's Office released its after-action report at a press conference Tuesday.

It's been one year and a day since the Black Forest Fire started. Two people lost their lives in the fire and almost 500 homes were destroyed.

Investigators with the Sheriff's Office have ruled out these potential causes for the fire during their investigation: lightning, careless smoking, campfires, children playing in the area and a nearby railroad.

While El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said investigators are very close to finding the cause, they may never have a definite answer.

"I don't know that we will ever have a concrete source of ignition. But, I know a lot of people have worked very hard and I think knowing where the point of ignition actually was gives us a tremendous start to determine that.  I think what we will end up with is cases of probability," said Maketa.

The after-action report outlines lessons learned and ways response could have improved during the Black Forest Fire.

Maketa applauded the quick response by the military to aid in the fire fight. He said during the Waldo Canyon Fire that burned in June 2012 that it took much longer to coordinate with the military.

He said after the Waldo Canyon Fire, legislation was put in place that tore down some of the red tape and greatly improved response.

Water supply was a problem during the Black Forest Fire. First responders have been criticized for not using cisterns that store water during the fire. Maketa said the Sheriff's Office is working on identifying where cisterns and hydrants are so they can be used in the future.

He said coordination and cooperation between local fire districts and the Sheriff's Office needs improvement.  Almost eight months ago, Maketa criticized Black Forest Fire Chief Bob Harvey for his handling of the Black Forest Fire.

He said coordination and cooperation between local fire districts and the Sheriff's Office needs improvement. Almost 8 months ago, Maketa critized Black Forest Fire Chief Bob Harvey for his handling of the Black Forest Fire.

Maketa told KRDO NewsChannel 13 that Harvey didn't pass command of the fire to the Sheriff's Office soon enough. Maketa said it delayed resources from getting into the fire fight sooner. Maketa said Tuesday he still stands behind those statements and believes communication was a problem during the initial hours.

During its analysis of the fire, the sheriff's office also found that its employees were ill-equipped during evacuations. Money has since been used to purchase new breathing masks and fire retardant equipment.

It's the first time Maketa has made a public appearance since allegations against him surfaced. He is accused of having inappropriate relationships with three women in his office and promoting them to positions they didn't deserve.  He is also accused of creating a hostile work environment.

El Paso County commissioners called for his resignation. He said he will not resign, and wants people to wait for the "facts" to come out when the investigation into the allegations is released.


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