COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The El Paso County Sheriff's Office has released its own timeline of events for the Black Forest Fire which indicates the fire was first reported nearly two hours earlier than the Black Forest Fire/Rescue District reported.
In a Dec. 10 news release, the Black Forest Fire/Rescue District said the fire was first located at 1:45 p.m. on June 11.
However, the sheriff's office timeline released Monday shows callers to 911 started reporting a haze and the smell of smoke at 11:54 a.m.
At 1:40 p.m., emergency radio traffic is heard saying, "you might start getting more call of localized smoke," but they blamed it on the Royal Gorge wildfire burning in Canon City, saying"looks like there is a fire in Canon City."
However, in the same report, the person says, "pretty good column on Hodgen Rd.," which is near the Black Forest area.
Two minutes later, personnel from the Air Force Academy air traffic control tower reported seeing smoke somewhere near New Life Church, according to the sheriff's office.
The sheriff's timeline shows the first units from the Black Forest Fire Department were dispatched at 1:46 p.m. The Black Forest Fire/Rescue timeline says units from Black Forest and Wescott Fire Districts were on scene at 1:47 p.m.
Black Forest Fire officials said the fire was out of control at 2:18 p.m. and the state took control of operations at 3:10 p.m.
-- Fire investigation --
The Black Forest is the most destructive fire in Colorado history. The assessor's office said 486 homes were lost in the fire and damage was estimated at $85 million.
While investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the fire, a war of words has erupted between El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa and Black Forest Fire Chief Bob Harvey.
It started in November when Harvey told KRDO-TV that the fire was human caused.
"I don't think that anybody in the Black Forest area is surprised that this is human caused and probably intentional," Harvey said.
However, Maketa wrote on a Facebook post and issued a statement saying he was shocked that Harvey talked about an active investigation and accused Harvey of mishandling the event.
"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," Maketa wrote.
Maketa then went after Harvey.
"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," Maketa wrote. "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."
A group of citizens started a petition drive calling for Harvey's dismissal. The Fire District's Board of Directors decided to hire an independent investigator to look into Harvey's decisions during the early hours of that fire.
The Board said it will refrain from public comment until that inquiry is resolved, which is expected to be sometime this month.
"I'm sure whatever the Sheriff has to report today has some information that will coincide with what our team is finding," the Board's spokesman, Pete Webb, said. "I do have some question as to why the Sheriff feels it necessary to issue his timeline at this point, although he has met with our investigator and is cooperative."
-- Sheriff's timeline --
See the entire sheriff's timeline here.
The time from the Black Forest Fire/Rescue District said:
- Fire first located at 1:45 p.m.
- Black Forest & Wescott Fire Districts on scene at 1:47 p.m.
- Colorado Springs units arriving at 1:51 p.m.
- Fire out of control at 2:18 p.m.
- State took control of operations at 3:10 p.m.