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Black Forest fire chief off the hook

The Black Forest Fire/Rescue Protection District Board of Directors held an executive session Feb. 19 to review the results of the investigation into the actions of the districtís fire chief at the onset of the Black Forest fire in June 2013. The investigation concluded that Bob Harvey, fire chief, conducted operations professionally, and there was no evidence of misconduct.At a press conference following the executive session, David Fisher, the third party investigator, said, ìWhen I was selected, I had one ground rule, which was whatever I found I would report.î Fisher said he compiled his 89-page report from almost 1,000 pages of documentation and backup evidence. The district attorney of El Paso County received the full report, and press conference attendees received an eight-page summary.Fisher said the full report isnít available to the public at this time for several reasons: releasing the full report could potentially interfere with the El Paso County Sheriffís ongoing investigation; it could inhibit future criminal proceedings and investigations, if any; there were items critical of several people and entities involved, and the DA needs to make the final decision about how to proceed.ìThere was a pretty consistent theme that no one was going to be able to stop it (the fire),î Fisher said. ìI couldnít find any evidence that more assets getting here quicker would have made a difference.îSome were concerned that Harvey didnít transfer the command over the fire to the county and then to the state quickly enough to effectively defend the area. Fisher said, ìAt 2:10, it was a low-crawling fire; and, within 8 minutes it was out of control in the crown of the trees. Thereís the whole issue with the timeline of when command was transferred and could anything better have been done if it was transferred sooner, but I have not been able to determine that.ìI donít think that if it had been turned over to Rich Harvey, who came in three days later (and commanded the fire from then on), the outcome wouldíve been different.îìIím extremely pleased that a third party investigation by credible individuals came to that conclusion,î Harvey said.The Black Forest fire district board of directors released a statement regarding the investigation: ìWe must make it clear that this entire ëmisadventure,í for wont of a better word, was a needless waste of time, and a waste of taxpayer funds.î

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