Keith Brown, former chief of the Boulder Emergency Squad and longtime volunteer firefighter, died Thursday, friends confirmed. He was 66.
A chemist by trade, Brown volunteered on and off with B.E.S. for 24 years, including a two-year stint as chief in the late 1970s.
His squad colleagues described him as exceptionally competent and knowledgeable, and the consummate team player.
"He had a very irritating habit of always being right," said Brian Dillman, the only surviving member of the original 1963 squad.
"He would always present a position and, when you thought about it, invariably the way he was suggesting was the right way. And he could present that to people in a way that never came across as arrogant or in a demanding or controlling way."
Andy Amalfitano, the current B.E.S. chief, said Brown, guided by strong religious faith, had impeccable judgment.
"He knew right from wrong and was one of the guys that always took the higher road," Amalfitano said. "We've lost someone who was a valued member of our family of rescuers, and we're losing a lot of wisdom and expertise."
Brown was a highly skilled tactician, too.
"He was basically a technical rescue expert," Dillman said. "I think he found it a challenge to solve rescue problems, and the end result was helping people.
"My feeling was he really enjoyed the reward of helping people, and just having the opportunity to make people's lives better."
His administrative savvy was equally valuable to the squad, co-members said. In the last three years, Brown had been working purely in an oversight role, and not assisting on active rescues. But as a younger man, Brown led the way in the creation of the squad's bylaws.
B.E.S. colleague Steve Lanaghen said Brown was somewhat of a throwback.
"Back in the day," Lanaghen said, "they used to pass the hat around and thrown their own money in for gas for the rescue trucks. It really was them just doing it because it had to be done. It's rare you see that kind of spirit anywhere, anymore."
Brown had been battling cancer, friends said. He is survived by his longtime partner, Maryann Gaug.
A memorial service has been set for 11 a.m. Tuesday.