The board of directors for Black Forest Fire Rescue will hire a private investigator to verify exactly what happened during the first few hours of last summer's Black Forest fire that killed two people and destroyed nearly 500 homes.
The investigation comes in the wake of comments made Nov. 21 by El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa. The comments were aimed at Black Forest Fire Chief Bob Harvey. The sheriff issued a statement just hours after Harvey told a television reporter that the early-June blaze was "probably" intentionally set.
In the statement, Maketa said Harvey "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."
Black Forest Fire Rescue board chairman Eddie Bracken said Tuesday morning that he has full confidence in Harvey and the job Harvey has done since joining the department in 2012.
"Bob Harvey is a superstar as far as I'm concerned right now," Bracken said.
Bracken continued, saying that Black Forest Fire Rescue has been more responsive since Harvey was hired and the chief's "performance and execution during the fire was tremendous. We saved a lot of homes," he said.
According to the chairman, a letter of support for Harvey was given to the board with signatures from the entire Black Forest Fire Rescue staff. Harvey said he also heard from officials at the Westcott and Falcon fire protection districts expressing more support for the chief.
"The entire fire department is behind him," Bracken said.
According to news reports, a petition began circulating around Black Forest over the Thanksgiving weekend. Denver's ABC affiliate reported on its website that the petition declares residents of Black Forest "have no faith in Bob Harvey to hold the position of Fire Chief" and that he displayed "incompetence, arrogance, lack of integrity and ego."
Harvey could not be reached for comment Tuesday morning.
Lawyers for the Black Forest department will now search for a private investigator to handle the case. Bracken said the board will hold a press conference when the investigation concludes. He would not guess how long the task could take and wouldn't share his own beliefs about what investigators might find.
"I'm not going to speculate until we get all the facts verified," Bracken said.