EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. - The embattled chief of the Black Forest Fire/Rescue Protection District has left the agency, the district's board chairman said Thursday.
Fire Chief Robert "Bob" Harvey had faced criticism and controversy for his handling of the Black Forest Fire, the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history. The June 2013 fire burned more than 14,000 acres, destroyed 511 homes and killed two people.
Harvey told the district board on June 4 that he was taking a medical leave. KRDO-TV reported Harvey cited post-traumatic stress disorder from the fire and a hostile work environment in his announcement and then left the meeting.
In a Thursday statement, fire district board chairman Rick McMorran said, since Harvey took the leave, "the Board has awaited word from Chief Harvey on his condition as well as his intentions regarding his return to work. The Board had intended to schedule a meeting with Chief Harvey to discuss this, but then learned that he had apparently made statements elsewhere that he was no longer employed."
"Yesterday, Chief Harvey cleared his personal items out of his office," McMorran said. He added that the board will be working to "find a replacement to lead our department."
At one point, Harvey was targeted by a petition to get him dismissed for his management of the wildfire.
Yet in March, the fire district released a 2,000-page report that the board said fully exonerated Harvey from allegations of unprofessional behavior or misconduct.
New reports said the review was prompted by a public clash between Harvey and El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa.
The dispute between the chief and sheriff erupted after Harvey told a reporter that the Black Forest Fire was probably intentionally set.
Maketa responded with a statement saying the investigation is his responsibility and he said the fire chief may be covering up his mishandling of the fire response.