By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Mar 28, 2004 at 5:08 AM

{image1}Writers usually learn that they can only write about what they know. This knowledge gave Milwaukee author and firefighter Wayne Mutza the creative license to dabble in the dangerous.

"We (firefighters) often face guns, building collapses, fires, falls, electrocution, drowning, explosions and becoming involved in vehicle collisions, to name a few," says Mutza. "Twice doctors told me I had a 50/50 chance of surviving smoke inhalation. I was nearly decapitated by a huge plate glass window, nearly fallen off high roofs, fell through floors of burning buildings, avoided falling with a car into a pit with a gas main at the bottom, and nearly got swept away rescuing a woman in a culvert's raging torrent during floods."

Mutza shaped his intense, real life experiences as a Milwaukee fireman for 18 years (1976-'93) into a collection of short stories called "Life Lines: Stories from the Firehouse." This is Mutza's 16th book. He has also written extensively for magazines and newspapers.

Mutza, as well as photographer Joe Kluck, also snapped compelling black-and-white photos of firefighters in action.

"I never thought it professional to take pictures while at an emergency scene. Most of those in my book were taken off duty or before I got on the job," he says.

The 116-page book, published by The Guest Cottage in Woodrow, Wis., is a quick and heartfelt read. It's an interesting contrast for a fireman, professionally required to be tough and brave, to convey such deep emotions and reflections.

"I believe one can possess both types of characteristics. Fighting fire for me was a personal challenge, and it brought out an intense, serious side few people have seen," says Mutza, who lives with his wife, a former Milwaukee Fire Department paramedic, in Mequon.

Although initially the 9/11 tragedy flooded firefighters in positive light, Mutza feels there has been a fair share of backlash, specifically for firewomen.

"It seems that since then the hard traditions have enjoyed a resurgence at the expense of true professionals and female firefighters," says Mutza. "I'm not big on political correctness, but we seem to have reverted to calling them 'firemen' again, and the females, who have earned the title, are, again, pushed into the shadows.

"I also think the term 'hero' is overused. The hero status made some firefighters feel they could do no wrong. Twice on New York City streets last year I saw firefighters signing autographs and posing for pictures instead of doing their job. We need heroes, our kids need heroes, but there has to be limits."

Recently, the Liberal Arts Deptarment of MATC's North Campus named "Life Lines" their book-of-the-month and Mutza recently gave a talk there. He will also teach a class on "Marketing Yourself as a Freelance Writer" at the Great Lakes Writer's Workshop at Alverno College on June 26.

"LifeLines: Stories from the Firehouse" is available at Schwartz Bookshops, Barnes & Noble and

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.