News 5 Investigates

Feb 20, 2014 1:49 AM by Eric Ross

News 5 Investigates: Black Forest fire report findings

An 8-week independent investigation into Black Forest Fire Chief Bob Harvey cleared him of any wrongdoing.

A summary of the findings was released during a press conference Wednesday afternoon at Black Forest fire station 1.

Chief Harvey plans to move forward as fire chief after the investigation stated he acted appropriately in handling the fire.

"I am extremely pleased that the third party independent investigation team came to that conclusion," Harvey said. "I knew they would."

Some in attendance questioned the legitimacy of the report, and wondered if there was a conflict of interest between Dave Fisher, one of the investigators, and Chief Harvey over whether the two knew each other prior to the fire.

"I didn't know him," Harvey said. "That was the first question out of my mouth when I met him was ‘Have you ever met me?'"

In addition to clearing Harvey's name, the report released a timeline of events during the fire.

1:40 p.m.: Chief Harvey reports the fire
1:42 p.m.: First 9-1-1 call
2:18 p.m.: Fire ruled out of control
3:30 p.m.: Harvey signs papers to transfer control of the fire to El Paso County
3:45-3:55 p.m.: Control handed over to the County

That timeline still conflicts with Sheriff Maketa's, who says control wasn't turned over until nearly an hour later.

Despite the ongoing discrepancy, we asked independent investigator Dave Fisher whether turning over control earlier could have saved homes and the two lives that were lost.

"I couldn't find any evidence of that," Fisher said.

The report also highlighted a lack of communication within the fire department, and made recommendations for the future.

Those recommendations include better mapping systems, joint training, and a more refined response plan with neighboring agencies.

The full 80-page report has not yet been made public and has been turned over the Fourth Judicial District Attorney's Office for review.

The fire board says they want to eventually make the report public, but could not give a definite date as to when that will be.

Lee Richards of the District Attorney's staff said there were many calls Wednesday asking about the report and when it will be released.

"Any information is going to come through the investigating agency which is the El Paso County Sheriff's Office," Richards said.

According to the Black Forest fire board, the independent investigation cost taxpayers roughly $50,000.



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