You could say Mike Meeker is a family man.
He has a wife, kids, grandkids and is a member of the Powell Volunteer Fire Department family. Meeker retired from the department last month, but once a Powell firefighter, always a Powell firefighter.
“I was committed to do the best job I could,” said Meeker, 59. “I’m proud of my service.”
He aims to spend more time with his grandchildren, build a cabin on the Kenai River in Alaska and continue diving with his wife, Dale Ann, Meeker said.
Meeker was an able firefighter and trained rookies. “He’s always been there for the department,” said Powell Fire Protection District Board President T.J. Bell.
During his 25 years with the department he served as assistant chief and lieutenant, but preferred being a boots-on-the-ground fireman, Meeker said.
“His knowledge base was tremendous and he will be missed for that reason,” said Powell Fire Chief Joey Darrah. “It is very difficult to replace such a wealth of knowledge.”
Meeker had plenty of firefighting knowledge and was dedicated. “I was with him my full 16 years,” said Kenny Skalsky, Powell fireman from 1986 to 2003 and now the Park County Fire Protection District’s administrator.
Meeker had your back, Skalsky said.
“If I was in a burning building I would want him next to me,” he said.
More often than not Meeker was the first to hop in a firetruck when the siren wailed. And his employer of nearly 30 years, Marathon Oil Corporation, authorized him to leave work to respond to fire calls, Meeker said.
Fire calls run the gamut from tragedy to simply re-setting a fire alarm.
“Sometimes you’re called into
action and it’s serious business,” Meeker said. “Sometimes it’s routine stuff.”
It wasn’t routine when he was first on the scene after a car plunged into the Garland Canal around 12 years ago. The passenger was out, but the driver was unconscious in the submerged, upside-down vehicle. On the third dive into the freezing water Meeker was able to free the driver. He performed CPR, but couldn’t revive the man.
“He didn’t make it,” Meeker said.
Darrah was with Meeker when he dashed from room to room searching for students when Bridger Hall at Northwest College burned in 2004.
“I have no doubt Mike would put himself in harm’s way in order to rescue another firefighter or member of the public,” Darrah said.
Meeker takes the death of a woman in the Super 8 Motel fire in 2007 personally, despite receiving honors for his bravery.
He was fighting the fire when he heard moaning. Meeker and another Powell firefighter were able to locate and save a man. The man was unconscious and could not inform them his wife was still in the motel.
Shortly after rescuing the man, the motel was fully engulfed. The woman died of smoke inhalation, Meeker said.
The city of Powell honored Meeker for his efforts. “His lifesaving award is in the hallway at the fire hall,” Darrah said.
After Powell firefighter Bruce Honstain was killed trying to rescue his son, Joshua, in 1996, Meeker initiated raising money for the statue that stands in front of the fire department.
“Ultimately, in great part through his efforts, our department raised the $52,000 necessary to commission the work on the statue,” Darrah said.
Meeker also launched the water rescue team and physical ability testing standards that Powell volunteers must pass annually to remain firefighters. While there have been painful days and moments, the good memories far outweigh the bad, Meeker said.
“Mike was the chair of our entertainment committee for several years,” Darrah said. “He gave a lot of his time to plan and prepare tremendous meals like the one for Greg Anderson just prior to his going to California for treatment (2010).”
Meeker recalls the special dinners for firefighters and their spouses and recalls the camaraderie and warm atmosphere, he said. Meeker described the equipment and personnel as “top-notch.”
People can sleep soundly at night knowing a well-trained, dedicated group will rush to their aid when they need it the most, he said. It makes him proud of his service. “It’s a good feeling (knowing) you helped the community for that many years,” Meeker said.