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Michael A. Holzmueller



Bachelor of Science  Psychology 1977

Associates in Fire Science 1981

Associates in Hazardous Materials

National Fire Academy Executive Fire Officer 1993



Wife: Leann, Ashley (28), Brett (26)



Deputy Fire Chief, Steese  Volunteer Fire Dept (2006 to present)

Deputy Fire Chief retired, University Fire Dept (1979 – 2004) 25 years

UFD Student Firefighter, Captain (1975 – 1978)


What is your favorite memory, story, experience, etc. while at UFD?         

There are too many “Grand” memories to mention them all. We were the last group of Student Firefighters to experience “Riding the Tailboard” before it became taboo in the fire service. Engine 2 was our attack engine, which is now located in a museum in Wasilla. Engine 2 was notorious for occasionally not completely latching the tilt cab. There have been a number of times when we would be responding down the fire lane and upon hitting the big bump at the bottom of the lane, the cab would pivot forward putting the driver in a precarious position of straddling the steering wheel and trying to maintain control of the rig while trying to stop. The rest of us would be strapped in with a clear view of looking straight down at the front bumper.  


Comparing how well we train & prepare firefighters now, I look back on my days of rappelling off of the 100’ Seagraves aerial ladder using gold line rope and no PPE, makes me feel lucky that I’m alive.  Not good for the ladder either. Our training consisted of Monday Night Drills which took place throughout the year and Drill Week, which would occur the week before the Fall semester started.  Drill week would be comprised of fine tuning our hose operations and pumping skills. On the last day of Drill Week we would conclude with a massive water fight between various engine companies and the ladder truck. 2 ½” attack lines, deluge guns and the aerial master stream comprised the arsenal, along with +80,000 gallons of water. I don’t recall why we stopped the annual water fight but it probably had something to do with the UAF Power Plant in a panic with us taxing the campus water system along with a damaged civilian vehicle or two that crossed paths with a master stream.


With 21 Student Firefighters, we were the smallest dorm on the campus. Most of us were heavy into sports and it seemed like every day we would be playing either football on our lawn alongside Yukon Drive or volleyball in the back yard. In 1976, we decided to compete against the major dorms on campus to win the Winter Carnival. Typically Macintosh consistently walked away with the trophy each year, but with the cross country skiing and ice skating skills of some of our Student Firefighters, we went for the gusto and ended up edging out all the other dorms to take the championship. That placed us “on the map” with the rest of the dorms and consequently we established a strong social bond with all of them. Any party or event taking place on campus, the Firehall got a special invite.


I don’t recall what year we started the “Wall of Fame”(Although I thought we initially named it the “Wall of Flame”) but so much for my memory. We picked out blocks and “individualized” them as best we could. Once the current group was on the wall, we tried to find the names of Student Firefighters from the generations before us and began adding them to the wall as well. Much of the earlier names were added based on memory since the documentation of folks from the past was not that great. It’s amazing that the “Wall of Fame” has become such an important part of the department’s history.


Man, the memories sure start flooding the mind but it’s time to wrap up.

My final mention is that of Buck Whitaker, Bill Leary “Doc Leroy”, and Bill Shechter. I had the distinct honor to have worked with all three. Buck lived in the apartment attached to the Firehall and would periodically come down to the kitchen table and hang out with us for an hour or so. He was a Marine in WWII who served in the Pacific, an avid sportsman and a good leader for our dept. He was a friend to every one of us but made no hesitation when one crossed the line.

“Doc Leroy” was one of Assistant Chiefs at UFD, and man was he a prankster! He got me good a few times. Every Friday that he was on-duty, he would start making Chile. Everyone would contribute some sort of ingredients through the day to help the cause and by late afternoon, it would be ready for all to partake in. Most of the time you would need a towel to wipe the sweat from your forehead.


It was in 1978 that Buck retired and Bill Shechter became the Chief. It was also during this time frame that the University Fire Service Area was formed and the department was looking at purchasing new apparatus and hiring fulltime personnel to meet its responsibility to the fire service area.

Shechter started my career in the fire service when he hired me as a fulltime Driver/Engineer in 1979. Over the course of 25 years, I worked with the best staff of officers that any department in the state of Alaska could have dreamed of. We transitioned the department from a casual 21 Student Firefighter, 2 Asst. Chief, 1 Fire Chief operation with antiquated apparatus to a formal 3 shift platoon with 10 Student Firefighters, a fulltime Captain and Battalion Chief per shift as well as an Administrative Asst., Deputy Chief, and Fire Chief that worked days and a fleet of apparatus and aerials that were state of the art. The training program advanced just as much with the development and implementation of an outstanding Driver’s Training Program and the start of the semi-militaristic Firefighter Academy concept which transitioned to the current CTC Fire Academy.


The University Fire Department has played an instrumental part in the leadership of the fire service in Alaska as well as other disciplines. It is remarkable what influence this department has had in the lives of so many young adults and the difference they are making in society.