Black Forest Fire Chief Bob Harvey (l) and El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa.
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In my career I have seen a fair amount of tension at times between law enforcement and the fire service, particularly over who is in charge. But I am not sure I have witnessed anything quite like the press release that came out early this morning from Sheriff Terry Maketa in El Paso County, Colorado. Sheriff Maketa sent the release in reaction to remarks made by Black Forest Fire Chief Bob Harvey who told a reporter for KRDO-TV last night that the Black Forest wildfire in June "was human caused and appears intentional".
In the release, Sheriff Maketa warned that we should not "buy into" Chief Harvey's "unqualified knee jerk claims". Maketa says Harvey's "comments are nothing more than an attempt to mislead the public and a mere witch hunt". He concludes the release by saying, "Chief Harvey's comments are reckless, irresponsible and lack what is in the best interests of the community following this tragedy". Read the entire press release below.
It appears Sheriff Maketa is not shy about letting his feelings be known on a variety of issues. Check out "The Sheriff's View" section near the bottom of the homepage of the department's website.
It's rare for law-enforcement officials to release statements after midnight — and rarer still when the purpose of those statements is to tear one of their peers a new one.
But that's what happened at 12:30 a.m. this morning, when El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa issued a rant accusing Black Forest Fire Chief Bob Harvey of irresponsibility when saying this year's incredibly destructive Black Forest fire appeared to have been intentionally set.
Black Forest Fire Chief Bob Harvey made the announcement Wednesday night (11/20/13), saying "yes, it was human caused and appears intentional.
Chief Harvey says he collaborated with "outside experts" and says that they came to the same conclusion many had been suspicious of since June.
"It's clear that this was human caused," Harvey said. "I don't think anybody in the Black Forest area is surprised that this is human caused and probably intentional at all."
However, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said there was no evidence that the fire was intentionally set.
EL PASO COUNTY SHERIFF TERRY MAKETA FINDS REMARKS MADE BY FIRE CHIEF DISTURBING
Sheriff Terry Maketa was shocked to see recent reports in the local news media where Black Forest Fire Chief 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”.
Sheriff Maketa offered these comments concerning the 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.”