(Originally published at 3:02 p.m. MDT, March 14, 2014; updates are below))
Today the Board of Directors of the Black Forest Fire/Rescue Protection District released the report of its independent investigation into the performance of Fire Chief Bob Harvey during the first hours of the Black Forest Fire. The investigation was conducted to respond to Sheriff Terry Maketa’s allegations that Chief Harvey had mismanaged command during the first day of the fire. In June of 2013 the fire claimed two lives, 14,000 acres, and nearly 500 homes near Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The report contains more than 2,000 pages and the files are ridiculously huge. It is absurd to think that 345 megabites and 2,000 pages will be downloaded and read by the average citizen. A cynic might think they wanted to reduce its impact by releasing it on a Friday afternoon, and purposefully made the report as user unfriendly as possible in order to deter people from reading it. The Black Forest Fire/Rescue Protection District needs to provide a version of the report that is easily downloaded and read by their taxpayers.
–To download the complete report, including all exhibits and photographs:
Click here to download the complete report in one file. This file measures 345 megabytes.
–To download the report and exhibits separately from the photographs:
Click here to download the report and exhibits only – File #1 of 2. This file measures 109 megabytes.
Click here to download just the photographs – File #2 of 2. This file measures 236 megabytes.
(UPDATE at 3:06 p.m. MDT, March 14, 2014)
The Denver Post read at least some of the report:
On the first night of the Black Forest fire, four firefighters and a piece of key equipment were ordered on a “secret special assignment” to watch and protect the home of an El Paso County Sheriff’s Office commander while other nearby houses burned, according to a report released Friday…
(UPDATE at 5:56 p.m. MDT, March 14, 2014)
We downloaded the report and found some other interesting sections.
A report was filed on a safety issue on the fire, through the SAFENET reporting system. It involves the Type 3 Incident Commander (ICT3) who assumed command of the fire from Fire Chief Harvey. Below is an excerpt from the SAFENET. The ICT3 referred to apparently is the ICT3 from the El Paso County Sheriffs Office.
Before the Type 6 Engines could be deployed the ICT3 arrived at the 11810 Goodson address (approximately 0115 hours) and immediately began to put on his pack and assemble a drip torch. He soon approached the two Chief Officers and told him he was going to fire the area and started to move toward the fence line behind the home with Chief 700 (ICT3 qualified and experienced) telling him that they had decided to put engines in place to attack the fire during the advantageous period and that no more fire was needed, the ICT3 proceeded with his operation.
The ICT3 did not have an established holding operation, did not brief the operating units of his intent, did not know where any safety zone or deployment site would be, did not state where his terminal point of the firing operation would be, did not ask for supporting forces to provide for a safe firing operation and did not ask were operating units outside his field of view were located. Within a few minutes of the ICT3 starting his firing operation a gate with clear roadway was found to allow the Type 6 Engines easy access, attempts to raise the IC to inform him of this alternative were fruitless, he did not respond to Chief 700 requesting his return to the point of contact.
Knowing that the Engines left in position, in particular at 10302 Burgess were on properties greater than 0.5 miles from the road and safety, Chief 700 contacted the ENGB and informed him that El Paso County 3001 was coming his direction with fire and that he should vacate the high fuel load property toward a safety zone at which point he removed units to a safe position.
Another issue involved an identified problem of suspicious-origin wildland fires in the county, and a perceived lack of cooperation in sharing information and conducting investigations. Below is an excerpt from page 56 of the report:
As mentioned throughout the report, there were recently at least two record breaking wildfires in EI Paso County; the Waldo Canyon Fire in 2012 and the Black Forest Fire in 2013. Between the two, nearly 1000 homes were lost. Lives were lost, and those victimized by these tragic fires have endured a life-changing event. They look to their government for assistance and answers. In talking with interviewees, it is apparent to me that it is extremely possible that there could be some relationships between these fires.
To ignore the possibility is an oversight that should not be tolerated by any governmental official or group. There are some arson investigators amongst the entities of EI Paso County; however, not every jurisdiction has that luxury. Wildfires don’t stop at jurisdictional or county lines. Other entities have suspicious fires too. The consensus from fire agencies is that when and if a suspicious fire occurs, and the Sheriffs office is called to investigate, that is the end of any cooperative efforts. No data or any leads are shared. There is no feedback loop, but only animosity.
The report contains over two pages of a back and forth argument on Facebook between the stepdaughter of Fire Chief Harvey and someone identifying themselves as Sheriff Terry Maketa, beginning on page 74. It demonstrates the amount animosity that the County Sheriff had toward the Fire Chief.
Here is an excerpt, apparently written by the Sheriff:
Records and Recordings don’t lie. This man does and I have it on the record and evidence such as that can not be disputed. He can hire buddies or whoever and pay them to say what he wants them to. It still will not change the overwhelming evidence. Since you are family of his I would fully expect you to stand by him. With that said I would suggest if you don’t like this site and only want to harass through it, then you should avoid it in the future.
The authors of the report had a number of recommendations for improvement, mostly for the Fire District and Chief Harvey. They were related to the Fire Chief’s vehicle, having maps available, delegation of tasks, radio communications, the locations of the command posts, staging areas, water supply, evacuations, transfer of command, and freelancing.
Thanks and a hat tip go out to Rick and BF