By Josh Hertzog   Published Aug 03, 2005 at 5:18 AM

{image1}When OMC spoke with Milwaukee author and firefighter Wayne Mutza last year, he had released "Life Lines: Stories from the Firehouse," a book that received high praise.

With gripping photographs of firefighters in action and a very personal look at the profession, Mutza decided to keep the theme rolling with his latest book, "Milwaukee Fire Department," published as part of Arcadia Publishing's ongoing Images of America series of photo history books. (The series also includes Martin Hintz's books on various ethnic groups in Milwaukee.)

"Milwaukee Fire Department" tells its story through a 128-page photography timeline dating back to the 1800s when the department first formed as a volunteer organization. The book has hundreds of pictures, each telling a story in its own way; from crying children comforted by firefighters to homes engulfed in flames as townspeople helplessly look on. Detailed captions give the images context.

Choosing the photographs for the book wasn't an easy task, says Mutza.

"I actually had to (decrease) the number of photos," he says. "Some are from my personal collection, and some are from the Milwaukee Fire Department Historical Society.

"It's a good representation of what the job entails," Mutza adds. "It turned out well."

As a firefighter for 18 years (1976-'93), Mutza has been through it all, from emergency medical situations to building collapses. Many would be happy to avoid such occurrences, but Mutza isn't one of them. Despite suffering irreversible lung damage and now living on medical disability, he'd gladly put the gear back on.

"I'd go back tomorrow if I could," he says and claims he left "kicking and screaming."

Refusing to take a back seat to a shortened firefighter career, Mutza went on to further his education and earned a degree from Cardinal Stritch University, building upon his passion for teaching and writing. With a degree in his pocket and lots of firsthand experience and knowledge, Mutza decided to chronicle the evolution of the Milwaukee Fire Department, and during the 1970s he initiated the efforts to preserve the department's history.

Now Mutza continues to share the firefighting experience through the photographs and pages he has devoted to the department's history in his new book.

"I think people will enjoy the book not only because there is a surge of interest in firefighters and paramedics," says Mutza, "but because the book captures the ethnic flavor of Milwaukee, which is reflected in its fire department."

"Milwaukee Fire Department," published by Arcadia Publishing, at $19.99, is available at area bookstores, independent retailers, on-line bookstores, or through Arcadia's Web site,