Community mourns death of longtime firefighter Daniel ‘Skip’ Bergbauer
Bergbauer joined Red, White & Blue Fire as a volunteer in 1995
The community is mourning the loss of Daniel Bergbauer, 59, a longtime firefighter with the Red, White & Blue Fire Protection District who died unexpectedly last week.
Red, White & Blue Chief Jim Keating said Bergbauer, known as “Skip” to those close to him, died suddenly at his Littleton home Tuesday, July 13. Officials believe his death was due to natural causes. For his families at home and at the fire district — and the community at large — his life leaves a lasting impact.
“No matter what it was that came to him to work on, whatever his project, he dug in,” Keating said in an interview with the Summit Daily News on Monday. “That’s how he satisfied his need for knowledge, his need for data to improve things. That obviously shined through not only in his fire service but in his family life. … He was an outstandingly caring person. He was a person that was absolutely always there to help.”
Bergbauer was perhaps best known among his colleagues for his intellect. A former rocket scientist, he collected his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland in the early ’90s. He joined Red, White & Blue in 1995 as a volunteer and signed on as a career firefighter in 2001 with his promotion to staff lieutenant before eventually earning the rank of battalion chief.
Keating said Bergbauer also took on a roll as the district’s data manager for the past 12 years, compiling data and providing detailed analysis of call volumes, response times and more to ensure the district was performing in the most efficient way possible. Keating credited Bergbauer’s work as vital in achieving the district’s accreditation a decade ago and in helping to keep it ever since.
“He’s one of the most detail-oriented people that I’ve met in my entire life,” Keating said. “Taking something at face value was never good enough for Skip. He dug to the deep depths with everything.”
Bergbauer undoubtedly performed well at his job, but he also demanded the best from others.
“I very clearly remember that about a week after I was appointed interim fire chief, Skip entered my office and said, ‘What gives you the right to be my fire chief?’” Keating reminisced. “I kind of looked at him, and he said, ‘I think I ought to be able to give you a test and ask you to run some exercises to prove to me that you’re worthy of being my fire chief.’ That pictures Bergbauer all the way through.”
His colleagues said Bergbauer’s analytical mind paid off in his interactions with others at the department, as he served as a mentor to many younger firefighters over the years.
“Skip was one of a kind; I don’t know how else to describe him,” Deputy Chief Jay Nelson said. “He was always offering to help people out when they needed help. He was a big giver, as much as he was a mentor to a lot of people around here. … He came with an engineer mindset. He was always teaching and trying to get people to learn the basics, and once you had the basics, you could apply them to everything else that we do. … He definitely helped to guide my learning path.”
Those close to Bergbauer said he was always ready to take control of an emergency scene when the moment arose, but off the job, he was a caring person with a dry sense of humor and a quick wit, always ready to retort or add to a joke at the drop of a hat.
Away from the fire station, Bergbauer was a skilled homebrewer and a “coffee guru,” who enjoyed sharing his hobbies with others. But first and foremost, colleagues said Bergbauer’s biggest passion was spending time with his family: his wife, Julia, and his daughters, Nika and Sophia.
“He was a coffee scientist,” Capt. Jason Kline said. “He roasted his own coffee beans for all of the stations at the fire department, and he took it very seriously. He made sure everybody got the flavors and the roast that they liked. But he spent most of his time with his family. His kids were a very large part of his life. They were everything to him.”
Bergbauer’s family held a visitation Monday afternoon in Lakewood, and a graveside service is planned for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 20, at Crown Hill Cemetery in Lakewood, according to Red, White & Blue.
Donations for the Bergbauer family can be made through the Red, White & Blue emergency aid fund account.
“We’ve lost a true friend, a member of the family that was really integral to shaping the Red, White & Blue into what it is today,” Nelson said. “We’re losing … a person that truly cared about those that he worked with in this community.”
Venmo: @RWB-Local-4325 with memo reading, “Julia Bergbauer donation”
Check by mail: Make out to RWBCFFA, with a memo reading, “Julia Bergbauer donation”
Mail to Red, White & Blue Fire, attention: Local 4325 – Dan Felt
P.O. Box 710, Breckenridge, CO 80424
Cash or check: Drop off at Station 6, 316 N. Main St., Breckenridge
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