Firefighters ball organizer says chief had nothing to do with it

Problem Solvers
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DENVER (KDVR) -- The man who organized the Denver Firefighters Ball for each of the past six years says he’s sorry the chief resigned after this year’s ball involved a few comedic remarks about a sex toy.

“I wish he would have fought more for the guys and for his job. I think that would have made everybody proud – set the record straight,” said Jay Burkhalter.

In Chief Eric Tade’s resignation letter, Tade mentioned that he had promised the mayor that the 2020 ball would not be reminiscent of the 2019 ball in which a sex toy was passed around and photographed.

However, the 2020 ball featured a comedian who cracked a few jokes about it.

Burkhalter said the chief had no involvement in organizing the private event, which is sponsored by the local union.

“I feel bad that all of this is coming down on him and that after all the good things he’s done in the last 10 years, hopefully this doesn’t tarnish what he’s done for us. I think he’s a good chief,” said Burkhalter, a 27-year fire veteran, in an exclusive interview with the FOX31 Problem Solvers.

Burkhalter said the Denver Firefighters Ball has always been a safe space for fire personnel to blow off steam. Burkhalter served as the union public relations official until they relieved him of his duties on Monday.

“I had fun. It was a great role,” said Burkhalter. “The union does a lot of great things and that’s kind of what the ball is about.”

The ball recognizes the work of fire crews, hands out scholarships, raises money for charities and honors retirees.

“It’s a big event. Unfortunately, this could be the last one. I feel bad for that,” said Burkhalter. 

Burkhalter said he apologized for the 2019 ball during his monologue at this year’s events. He hired a comedian to help lighten the mood as well. However, the comedian cracked a few jokes about a sex toy and some people were offended.

“I guess I can see that being possibly offensive, but that was it. It was just part of the comedian’s skit. We hired a professional comedian to avoid what happened last year, shed light, make fun of ourselves and move on, and I guess it kind of just opened old wounds,” said Burkhalter.

He said he hopes the true spirit of the event does not get lost as a result of the very public situation happening with the chief, who agreed to a demotion.

Photo credit: From the Hip Photo

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