Mutza was born a "wild child," which led him to serve with
the U.S. Army in Vietnam followed by a long career as a Milwaukee
firefighter. "That wild spirit was still in me, having done a lot
of exciting, crazy things," Mutza says. "I needed to keep my
hair in the wind."
firefighting experience is the subject of his memoir, "The Flame
Within," which was published in the summer of 2013. "I
wanted to increase public awareness about the job," Mutza says.
"Itís an inside look at not only the rescuer, but the rescued,
the people that we helped, the people that made the call."
experienced both perspectives in his 17 years as a first responder,
saving many lives and being saved himself in 1987. "I was on top
of a burning building on a hot summer day. It was a rapidly moving
arson fire, which quickly engulfed the building. Things were bad. We
were slipping on hot tar. Flames were coming through the roof."
While trying to
rescue someone he spotted on the roof, Mutza fell into an airshaft and
was hanging on to life by his fingertips. "I was out of strength,
out of ideas and ready to drop, but two guys (firefighters) came up
and got me. They put me on the aerial ladder, and shortly after that,
the whole roof collapsed."
A lung condition
that worsened over time forced Mutza to retire in 1993. Then, he began
yet another career, as an author.
interviewed for a book on military helicopters used in Vietnam (Mutza
was part of a helicopter crew during his tour of duty), he decided to
pursue a lifelong passion for writing and penned his own work on the
subject. Mutza has now written 25 books, most of them on the military,
but it was only two years ago when he decided to tell his own story.
"I put it
off a long time," Mutza says. "But once I decided to do it,
my memory banks lit up." Mutza finished the book in just six
months. It was reviewed favorably and is still selling
Mutza says the
book has given his family an "idea of who I was" and says a
friend has told him that "anybody can read this book and see
themselves in it."
Mutza has taught
fire science at MATC and the National Fire Academy and conducted
writing seminars across Wisconsin.
He is working on
a premise for his first novel about a soldier reluctant to go to war
and is also gathering information for books on the history of
fireboats and air rescue.
Mutza, who faced
live combat in Vietnam and many dangerous fire emergencies, has lived
to tell his tale, and many others. "Iím here," Mutza says.
"So Iím lucky."