Colorado

Jan 23, 2013 9:03 PM by Siera Santos, ssantos@koaa.com

New fire chief under public scrutiny

The road to the quiet town of Beulah, Colorado is a straight shot from Pueblo. What's not so quiet these days is the talk about the town's fire chief.

On Jan. 1, the Beulah Volunteer Fire Department was renamed and redistricted the Beulah Fire Department and Ambulance District. With a new name, came a new chief: Bryan Ware who was hired lead Beulah EMS in 2010.

Ware is the department's only paid employee. All the other firefighters are volunteers. Over the last year, some of the volunteers have resigned or retired. However, former firefighter Karl Potestio was fired for what the board maintains was "personnel issues."

Potestio found that Chief Ware lost his firefighting certifications after he was prosecuted in Ohio for "disseminating matter harmful to juveniles."

"I'm sure he's probably not happy having this stuff brought to light. I would imagine there's a few others who probably don't like it. But it's our community," Potestio said.

The case in 2010 involved a 16-year-old boy. At the time, Ware was 33 years old and an assistant soccer coach at the boy's high school. The boy's parents brought their concerns about the relationship to the attention of school administrators. According to police reports, the parents had taken away the boy's phone and read what they considered inappropriate messages in which Ware told the boy "he loved him." The investigator who worked on the case found dozens of text messages between the boy and Ware.

It was around Valentines Day when Ware sent a picture of someone's testicles to the boy with a message that said ‘I heart you." Ware said he sent the same message to others as well and that he did it as a joke. Ware was never accused of any crime involving sexual contact, but on the charges involving the text, he pled no contest and was placed on probation that ended a year early in October 2012. Ware provided documents to News 5 confirming the termination of his probation and said he complied with the three court-ordered psychological exams, which he maintains came back "normal."

"I made a mistake and I've paid greatly for it and I've learned from it," Ware said.

In Ware's interview, he said the issues have always been known but have only come up because of disgruntled volunteer firefighters frustrated with changes within the department. He said he didn't want to see this (controversy) "be the downfall of Beulah Fire" and that "we (the department) continue to serve this community to the best of our ability."

Gary Kyte retired within the last year. He served as a volunteer firefighter for decades and said he stepped-down because of his age. Kyte acknowledged that not everyone was on-board with the redistricting.

"I think some will possibly choose to resign, to back off, but I think that's a normal thing to happen," Kyte said.

The board of directors knew about the incident when they hired Ware, who also was charged and convicted of serving alcohol to minors in 2006. Despite the past, they maintain he's a good man and an excellent fire chief who has drastically improved the fire department.

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