Black Forest Fire Chief Bob Harvey, has announced he is on medical leave, citing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Harvey made the announcement Wednesday night during a special meeting with the Black Forest Fire Board, and was further absent from the meeting.
Harvey said the Black Forest Fire and a hostile work environment caused his PTSD.
"He stood up and read off this statement at about 80 miles an hour and he was out the door and everybody here was going, 'What ? What did he just say?," said meeting attendee Charles Lidderdale.
El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa criticized Harvey for not handing command over earlier during the Black Forest Fire. Maketa said it delayed key resources from getting into the fire fight.
An investigator hired by the Black Forest Fire Board said the fire was out of control and Harvey's decisions did not impact the fire's outcome.
During a special district election in May, all fire board members up for re-election were voted out. They were replaced by three firefighters. Some of the newly elected board members were behind a petition calling for Harvey's dismissal earlier this year.
On Wednesday night, the board called a special meeting. On its agenda was a closed-door meeting to discuss "personnel matters related to the fire chief." Before that happened, Harvey announced he was on medical leave effective immediately.
The fire board would not say what it planned to discuss during that executive session.
In the meantime, Assistant Fire Chief James Rebitski will step in.
"I have been the operations chief for the last year and will continue to function in that role until the board decides what it's going to do," said Rebitski after the meeting.
Some meeting attendees said they were happy to see Harvey walk out the door. Lidderdale hopes Harvey comes back.
"He is an extremely qualified chief," said Lidderdale.
Harvey will be on paid medical leave until further notice. The board will not say what it plans to do next.