Report obtained by FOX21 contains additional evidence of Black Forest Fire cause

black forest fire drone

BLACK FOREST, Colo. — In a FOX21 News investigation this week, we were the first to reveal a possible theory about the cause of the Black Forest Fire that wasn’t previously made public.

An anonymous source close to the case presented evidence to FOX21 that we were able to verify with former El Paso County detective Mark Pfoff, who worked on the Black Forest Fire investigation. That theory involved a homeowner remodeling a home and burning cabinets in a fireplace with no working spark arrestor on the chimney–allowing embers to travel from the chimney to the fire’s point of origin.

>> READ MORE: FOX21 Investigates: Potential cause of Black Forest Fire revealed?

Thursday, we obtained even more evidence that further backs up the theory we’ve presented. Here’s what we uncovered.


In 2013, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office did not employ wildfire experts. They had arson investigators, but they did not have wildfire experts. They didn’t need them.

When the Black Forest Fire started, the U.S. Forest Service quickly sent in resources. Some of those resources included wildfire experts. Those experts offered to help with determining the cause of the fire. Their conclusions about the fire were then put into a report.

We asked Pfoff about the report.

“Our source tells us there is a report out there that actually was produced by the national Forest Service and in that report it basically states that this is the most viable theory out there as to the cause of the Black Forest Fire,” I said. “Can you confirm this?”

“That is correct,” Pfoff said. “I am familiar with the report.”

“Safe to say that a national Forest Service investigator is an expert on forest fires?” I asked.

“These were experts that came on scene,” Pfoff said.

“And so for them to draw a conclusion that the theory that we have discussed, that you have confirmed with FOX21 News, it’s pretty safe to say that they came to the same conclusion,” I said.

“Yes,” Pfoff said. “In their report, they say that this is the most likely scenario.”

FOX21 obtained a copy of the report, which was prepared on July 1, 2013, by two investigators. In the report, one of the investigators says in their opinion, it would be possible for a firebrand originating from a chimney to reach the point of origin on either June 10 or 11.

In the report, one of the experts expanded on the theory, writing,

In my opinion, the conditions for smoldering or ignition existed on June 10, 2013. However, the winds were not as strong or sustained and it would be possible for embers to smolder through the night and then be stoked into open flame and develop into a wildfire on June 11 when winds were not only stronger, but sustained for a longer period of time.

The report also laid out wind speeds and how far embers can travel from an open chimney and at what range they could land.

We called Sheriff Bill Elder’s office Thursday to ask about the U.S. Forest Service report. They said it was part of the investigation.

We’ll continue to dig for new information on this case, and when we uncover more, we will bring you the results.

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