Eagle River Fire Protection District (ERFPD) firefighter Charlie Keller might be fearless when it comes to waking in the dead of night to rush into a burning building or to extricate a motorist from a car wreck on Highway 24, but the thought of strutting shirtless down a runway in front of hundreds of cat-calling strangers always summons butterflies, if not cold sweats.
Yet he’s done it twice—successfully auditioning for the 2013 Colorado Firefighter Calendar, landing a slot as Mr. June, wearing nothing but boots and bunker pants while charging down a cinderblock hallway clutching a truncheon, and again for the 2019 edition, in the same cinderblock hall, only this time in addition to pants and boots, he’s also wearing a helmet and holding a fire extinguisher, his bare back to a wall of flames.
The calendar ($20, cofirefightercalendar.org)—which features 12 impeccably chiseled firemen and women from around the state—is hardly a vanity project. It’s the flagship product of a nonprofit that over the past six years has raised more than $565,000 for the Children’s Hospital Colorado Burn Center and Burn Camps Program. In addition to modeling as Mr. February (“I’m very happy with February,” he says. “Who can’t get excited for Valentine’s Day?!”), Keller appears with other featured firefighters at fundraising events throughout the state, such as the Melting Pot, a Louisville watering hole and calendar sponsor that hosts a recurring “Turn Up the Heat: Ladies Night Out” featuring a $35 hot fondue menu.
As for the good-natured ribbing about that six-pack Keller endures at the firehouse, the 33-year-old EMT and dad—a state champion bodybuilder who’s spent the last 10 years making weekly trips to Station 5 in Minturn from his home in Colorado Springs to work a 48-hour shift with the ERFPD—insists he has no regrets.
“I’ve done it before, so I knew what I was in for,” he says. “Everyone’s been very supportive—some even have been purchasing calendars for friends and family.”
It also doesn’t hurt that he has a first-degree black belt in Shaolin Kempo, a.k.a. kung fu.