BLACK FOREST, Colo. — The two people who died in the Black Forest Fire last week have been identified as Marc Herklotz, 52, and his wife, 50-year-old Robin Herklotz according to the El Paso County coroner.
The two were in their garage apparently preparing to leave when they died.
Both of them worked at Schriever Air Force Base. Marc was an Air Force civilian employee and Robin was an Air Force contractor.
Marc and Robin Herklotz were both long-time members of Air Force Space Command, supporting critical air, space and cyberspace operational missions from offices on Schriever Air Force Base, an Air Force statement says.
“The men and women of Air Force Space Command are saddened by the loss of these two members of our AFSPC family,” said General William L. Shelton, AFSPC Commander. “I extend my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Marc and Robin during this very difficult time. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.”
El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa says a homicide investigation is underway as it relates to how the fire started. Members of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations are also working with El Paso County officials.
Maketa has said investigators believe the fire was human-caused.
A co-worker and friend of the Herklotz’s told the Denver Post they were happy and inseparable.
James Wing says Marc enjoyed radio-controlled aircraft, and he had rare and impressive model airplanes hanging in his office where he developed intelligence software for the Air Force.
Wing told the Post the couple was thinking of the safety of firefighters when they died. He says Marc was a shooting enthusiast and he had lots of ammunition. The couple also had propane tanks at the home. A neighbor saw the couple moving ammunition and propane tanks into their car so it wouldn’t pose a danger to firefighters.
Sheriff’s deputies allowed residents of the heavily hit areas around Shoup Drive to visit their properties Tuesday afternoon as firefighters announced the Black Forest Fire was 85 percent contained.
The Shoup Corridor, as El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa called it, was one of “the most devastated areas” of the fire.
Officials planned to let residents into different zones starting around 4 p.m. for three hours. They could collect some belongings and check on homes before having to leave again.
Incident Commander Rich Harvey said firefighters had trouble finding hot spots Monday night and that allowed them to increase the containment estimate to 85 percent.
Still some 2,600 people in 937 homes are under mandatory evacuation orders with about 17,700 people and about 600 homes on a pre-evacuation status.
Maketa also announced two new burglary cases during a Tuesday afternoon news conference. That brings the total number of reported burglaries to six.
“I’m actually quite pleased that we are only dealing with six instead of hundreds,” Maketa said.
Deputies made protecting evacuated homes for looters one of their top priorities. So much so that when a firefighter crew saw what looked like a flashlight inside one of the affected homes, they reported it to law enforcement and “seven to eight cars, faster than they could possibly image” arrived on scene within minutes, Harvey said to the applause of evacuees watching the news conference.
“And all those cops went inside and turned off the television,” Havey said. The audience laughed. “So trust me. We are being incredibly vigilant out there.”
As of Wednesday morning, the number of homes destroyed in the fire had risen to 509. Eighteen homes are damaged and 3,651 appear to have escaped unharmed, Maketa said.
He warned the number of homes destroyed could increase in the coming days as officials get better access to burned areas that were too dangerous to enter before.
The cost to fight the Black Forest Fire is now just over $7 million.
The cause of the fire has still not been determined. Maketa said an expert from the Frost Service flew in Monday night and surveyed the ignition area Tuesday morning.
“I feel like we are making progress, but it is certainly something that you do not want to rush,” Maketa said.