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Chief, sheriff spar over ongoing Black Forest fire investigations

By: Lisa Walton, The Gazette
January 15, 2014 Updated: January 16, 2014 at 11:34 am
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House numbers lie in the ashes next to a driveway on Hardin Road Tuesday, June 18, 2013, after some residents were allowed to return to their homes a week after the Black Forest Fire started. As of Tuesday, 502 homes were destroyed and the fire is 85 percent contained. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

The Black Forest Fire/Rescue District Board says it has new leads about the cause and origin of the Black Forest fire, but El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa disputes the news.

A statement Wednesday from Black Forest Fire/Rescue board chairman Ed Bracken said the district's own investigation has produced the leads and that the El Paso County Sheriff's office has been notified about the developments.

The investigation was launched in December after Maketa criticized how the district handled response to the fire, the state's most destructive fire that killed two people and burned 14,280 acres and 488 homes.

Maketa responded Wednesday to the district's announcement with his own statement that said the leads are not new and have already have been investigated.

Maketa's statement also fired back at the district, saying a court order was needed to obtain an investigative file initiated by Fire Chief Bob Harvey because of Harvey's refusal to cooperate.

"The file contained only notes, daily logs, miscellaneous maps and did not resemble any appearance of a criminal or fire investigation and did not help to further the investigation," Maketa said.

Findings from the district's investigation are due to be released in February.

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