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Assistant Sebastopol Fire Chief Mike Reeser dies at 64

Mike Reeser was still just a kid when he became captivated by the fire service, hanging around with his dad, Howard, a volunteer at the old Twin Hills Fire Department.

He was middle-school age when, in 1969, he started volunteering as a radio dispatcher with the rural Sebastopol agency, now the Gold Ridge Fire Protection District. A few years later, he would serve three years as a Twin Hills Fire Explorer while at Analy High.

But it was at the Sebastopol Fire Department that he found his permanent home, serving as a volunteer for more than 42 years, beginning in 1979 and ending with his unexpected death Saturday.

Reeser, who suffered an apparent heart attack one day before his 65th birthday, held the title of assistant chief for nearly 33 years, serving alongside three paid chiefs and supplying consistency and calm reserve to the agency, Chief Bill Braga said.

“Mike was a great guy, and this was just devastating for us to hear,” Braga said. “We’re all just stunned that this happened. I’ve been with the department for 36 years, and Mike has always been there. He’s like our backbone.”

The third of eight siblings raised on Kennedy Road in Bloomfield, Reeser attended Twin Hills Middle School and graduated from Analy in 1974, where he knew Braga, who was a year ahead.

Reeser worked summers at Santa Rosa Fire Equipment after meeting the owner in 1972. The company then had six employees, according to its website. It specializes in fire alarm and sprinkler system sales and installations, as well as servicing and maintaining fire extinguishers.

Reeser was still working there after high school, and one day heard the frustrated owner muttering about how “for a dollar ninety-eight, I’d sell this business right now!” according to the business website. Reeser took it to heart, and a while later told the owner he might be interested in buying the company. In 1979, he and the company bookkeeper began buying stock in the company, eventually taking on a third partner.

Eventually, Reeser was the sole owner and chief financial officer, employing 24 people, the company website states.

The fire equipment business allowed Reeser to raise two daughters, Haley and Samantha, with his wife Jeanene, Braga said.

It also enabled him to provide decades of volunteer service to the community of Sebastopol, responding to calls, dealing with administration work and offering guidance on all key purchases, including traveling with the chief to various parts of the country when engines and other large equipment had to be evaluated and bought. He also was present every Thursday night for training, without fail, Braga said.

“He was kind of our foundation and the backbone of our department, and quiet — reserved,” the chief said. “You would never see the guy get excited to the point where he’s all amped up, upset, yelling, screaming. He always had a very cool demeanor. Always easy to talk to. Very methodical and just an easy disposition.”

But with retirement age on the horizon, Reeser and his wife had recently purchased property in Washington and built a new home there. Mike Reeser had lately been looking for a buyer for his company so he could move there, Braga said. Jeanene Reeser already had relocated while he stayed in Sonoma County to run the business, he said.

It was at the fire equipment company that Reeser was found unresponsive on Saturday, Braga said.

“It’s hard to imagine that Mike’s not going to show up at the fire house to buy a new fire engine, or do this, or do that,” he said.

Service arrangements are pending.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

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