Antioch alumnus Mike Chlanda ’83 pens book about Maples, the Antioch College Fire Department

By Nicole Wroten, assistant director of communications

Mike Chlanda while firefighting
Mike Chandla ’83, author of the new book on Maples, in firefighting uniform.

The story of Maples, the Antioch College Fire Department, is a long and interesting one, but no one ever thought about writing its history down until a walk down memory lane in 2012. It was while at Reunion 2012 last summer, that alumni Mike Chlanda ’83 and Jeanne Papish ’81 started reminiscing.

“We were talking about how the older guys were passing on, and how it would be sad to miss out on some of the history,” Chlanda said. “It's such a great story and had such a profound effect on people's lives that it really needed to be told. So I decided to do it.”

And do it, he did. Though a lot of work and an online campaign, the project was crowdfunded and received a lot of support from alumni and former “Maploids” (former Maples volunteers and firefighters). After receiving the funding, Chlanda spent two days a week holed up in Antiochiana doing research with the help of Scott Sanders, the College archivist.

Chlanda came to Antioch College in the late 1970s from New York City, where he was born in 1961. When the Maples team found out he had been an ER tech in a Manhattan emergency room, they made Chlanda join.

“Warren Watson was the godfather of Maples when I was there,” he said. “He signed all our paperwork, was our unofficial guru, let us take paramedic and firefighting classes for credit, and was our mentor in so many ways. He was the squad captain on the town fire department while I was at Antioch.”

Chlanda soon fell in love with the fire service, and after graduating from Antioch, he joined the village fire department.

“Maples had a big affect on my life. After Antioch, I spent 20+ years on the township fire department, retiring as a lieutenant. Over half my life has been spent in firefighting/EMS, “ Chlanda said.

Chlanda is no longer an active firefighter due to injuries he suffered after a bad hit-and-run accident five years ago while he was riding his bicycle.

Cover of the new book about Maples
Cover of “Maples: A History of the Antioch College Fire Department.”

“But [the book] is a way for me to reconnect with the firefighting community,” he said. “I've made a lot of new Maples friends, and became a lot closer to other Maploids I had already known.”

Chlanda said he really wrote the book, not only for alumni who remember Maples well, but mostly for fellow Maploids to use as a reference.

“There's a complete chiefs’ roster back to the first chief in 1927, an equipment roster with photos, photos of the various places Maples has been housed and garaged,” he said.

Maples wasn’t just a big part of Antioch’s history, but the history of firefighting and fire departments in the United States, and the world. Maples, nicknamed after the dorm volunteers were first stationed in, was the first (and only) student-run fire department in the country. It also employed the first female career firefighter in the state of Ohio, Terese Floren ’74, and the first female fire chief in the world, Rachel Levin ’76.

“I wouldn't have spent half my life in the fire service if it hadn't been for my time on Maples while at Antioch,” Chlanda said. “That's true of so many Maploids—20, 30, 40 years later, they're still involved with the fire department, emergency services, or medicine. It's amazing.”

"Maples: A History of the Antioch College Fire Department" is Chlanda’s first book and is available on Amazon. The book he is currently working on is a history/memoir of the first women on FDNY (Fire Department of New York). He hopes it will be finished by December.

"Maples: A History of the Antioch College Fire Department" is available through Amazon, or you can get an autographed copy directly from Mike Chlanda at www.mikechlanda.com.