- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 22, 2014

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) - The Black Forest Fire-Rescue District has hired a public relations firm to deal with a spat with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office over complaints that the fire department was slow to respond to a deadly wildfire.

Webb Strategic Communications has been paid nearly $6,000 so far, records obtained by KRDO-TV (https://tinyurl.com/lt4sot5) showed Wednesday.

The wildfire in June killed two people and destroyed 486 houses.

The board has launched an independent investigation into a dispute with El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa about the response to the Black Forest Fire. Fire Chief Bob Harvey and the board have refused to comment since the investigation began.

Maketa said the fire chief made some bad calls after the Black Forest wildfire was reported, refusing to call for outside help for two hours. He also accused Harvey of impeding his investigation into the cause of the blaze, allegations which Harvey has denied.

The fire department’s public relations effort has upset some taxpayers, who object to the expense.

“It’s a fire department. I don’t see any reason for my money to go toward a PR firm,” said Pete Claus who owns property in Black Forest.

“I don’t think they should be using a PR firm to defend what they did. I think facts should just come out and people can interpret that however they want to interpret it,” said Black Forest resident Ken Mann.

Another open records request by KRDO showed an investigator hired by the board has been paid more than $13,000.

The investigation into the disputed timeline is expected to be finished by a board meeting on Feb. 19.


Information from: KRDO-TV, https://www.krdo.com/

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