EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. — The Black Forest Fire started in El Paso County one year ago Wednesday.
It killed two people and became the most destructive wildfire in state history in terms of number of homes destroyed. It also burned 14,000 acres of land.
Separate investigations have still not determined a cause or whether the fire was intentionally set.
El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa went before the media Tuesday to talk about the fire and the investigation. But it’s the first time he’s done that since being embroiled in a sex scandal involving female employees at the sheriff’s office.
Black Forest Fire investigation
Maketa kept the focus on the Black Forest Fire investigation even while he faced questions about the sex and mismanagement scandal.
He says Black Forest Fire investigators have ruled out several sources of ignition including:
- Car engines
“I don’t know that we’ll ever have a concrete source of ignition.”
Maketa says possible criminal charges have not been ruled out. Two people died and 488 homes were destroyed.
The sheriff says many lessons were learned about how to improve catastrophic event response.
Reporters were told Maketa would not answer questions about allegations he had sexual relationships with three employees, promoting all three to management positions. Those employees are still working at the sheriff’s office.
Maketa is also accused of creating a hostile work environment and illegally spending taxpayer dollars.
FOX31 Denver reporter asked, “A lot of people want to know the answer: are you thinking about resigning or have you any apology in terms of what’s going on in your office as we hear it in Denver?”
Maketa responded, “As I’ve said I am staying here until this investigation is completed. There’s a lot of facts that are going to come out after this independent investigation is completed and I think the community deserves to hear those facts before any more judgments, executions or determinations of guilt are made.”
El Paso County commissioners have asked Maketa to resign, but he said he will finish out his term which runs until January.
He did post a video on an internal website in which he apologizes to sheriff’s office employees for engaging in what he calls “inappropriate behavior in the past.”
But he refused to address that at the news conference. He asked, “Are there any more questions pertaining to the Black Forest Fire?”
The investigation into the sheriff’s office that Maketa referred to is still underway.