Black Forest Fire: Lessons Applied, Lessons Learned, Cause Undetermined

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1min 19sec
Burned trees abut a road in the Black Forest fire burn area. Picture taken 06/21/13.
Credit Andrea Chalfin / KRCC
Burned trees abut a road in the Black Forest fire burn area. Picture taken 06/21/13.

The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office released a report looking at the response to the Black Forest Fire Tuesday, nearly one year to the day after the devastating fire began.  

The After Action Report [.pdf] details what went right during last year’s fire, and where there’s room for improvement.  Maketa said they applied lessons learned from the previous year’s Waldo Canyon event, including providing a quicker flow of information to those displaced.

"We took a risk and we began doing assessments immediately of those homes, knowing that there would be a potential degree of error," said Maketa. "But we felt that the majority would be better served than the minority of errors that we may run into."

Among other details, Maketa said the response included a faster mobilization of air assets than the year before, but revealed a need for more information-gathering flights. 

As to the cause of the blaze, Maketa said they know where it started, but not necessarily how.  He says they’ve ruled out lightening, smoking, a campfire, and other miscellaneous causes. 

An exact source, Maketa said, may never be determined.  "I think what we’ll end up with is cases of probability- some being low, and some being very high."

Maketa said he couldn't comment any further on the cause, and that they’re waiting on a final report from the U. S. Forest Service before turning evidence over to the District Attorney’s office for review.

The Black Forest Fire broke out one year ago tomorrow, Wednesday June 11.  It destroyed nearly 500 homes and killed two residents.

Read the El Paso County Sheriff's Office After Action Report here (.pdf). Sheriff Maketa also answered some questions regarding recent allegations made against him.  That report is here.