Steamboat Springs The two most important things to Jay Muhme are family and fire.
The walls of the Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue fire marshal’s office are covered with photos of his family — wife, two children and four grandchildren — at home or outdoors on fishing and hunting outings. Or coaching wrestling (Muhme was a high school state champion in 1971 and runner-up in 1972). And there are photos of fires, all of which he helped fight.
“I like photos,” he says. “This pretty much sums up my life: family, kids, hunting, fishing and fire.”
Muhme, 57, is a lifetime local; he is a 1972 graduate of Steamboat Springs High School. He’s been involved with the Steamboat fire department almost as long, volunteering with his dad, a firefighter, since he was 16.
Routt County Office of Emergency Management Director Bob Struble, a lifelong friend who worked with Muhme for about 30 years with the fire department, says Muhme’s family is “number one.” Struble says fire might be a close second.
“His dedication to the fire service is unbelievable,” he says. “It’s an important part of his life, right there with family.”
After graduating from high school, Muhme worked in construction but continued volunteering with the department. His first salaried job with Steamboat came in 1985 when he was named fire marshal, responsible for administration and enforcement of the fire code and investigations.
“It’s just always been a part of my life,” he says. “You just joined the fire department. It was all volunteer back then. When you got old enough, you joined. In my family, that’s just what you did, I guess.”
Fire technician Renee Patterson-Gaerlan, who has known Muhme since she was 10 years old when her dad was a volunteer firefighter, calls him “old-school Steamboat through and through.”
Muhme jokes that he’s never left Steamboat for more than 14 days at a time. And he doesn’t have any plans to change that because everything he needs is right here.
“I never expected to have what I have and be as satisfied as I am,” he says. “I didn’t know a person could be.”