John Callahan, the San Luis Obispo Fire Department chief, died suddenly of a heart attack Wednesday. He was 61.
Callahan was appointed chief in 2005, after 32 years in the Los Angeles Fire Department, where he retired as a deputy chief. He was expected to retire from the San Luis Obispo Fire Department in November.
"He was a very senior and experienced fire chief," San Luis Obispo Mayor Dave Romero said. "I think he did an excellent job while he was here. He was very stable, very knowledgeable and everybody liked him."
Romero said Callahan had the heart attack while playing softball. City Manager Katie Lichtig, also a member of the team, said the game was being played at Santa Rosa Park. Callahan was second baseman, she said, of a team that was comprised of city employees.
Callahan was rushed to Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo, and Lichtig and her predecessor, Ken Hampian, were among of group of city officials who followed.
Hampian hired Callahan to the job in San Luis Obispo, and said he was "such a strong person and strong force within the city family. It is just hard to absorb that he is gone.
"He was just a wonderful fire chief, leader and friend to all of us."
Lichtig called Callahan "an amazing collaborator with all the other departments (in city government) and was very involved with the community, which is another indication of how much he loved serving the community of San Luis Obispo."
Callahan said when he joined the department that he was impressed by San Luis Obispo's sense of community, and wanted to get local groups and businesses involved.
When he was sworn in, he told The Tribune in 2005, "half of the Fire Department showed up."
Callahan was credited with leading improvements to the city's Emergency Operations Center a central command post for all city resources during disasters. He was involved in the YMCA and the Rotary Club of San Luis Obispo de Tolosa.
Among his survivors is his wife, Lynne, a registered nurse.