COLUMBIA — One of Fire Chief William Markgraf's favorite stories is about skipping classes in high school to help out at his local fire station, said Steven Sapp, battalion chief for the Columbia Fire Department.
After 55 years of fire service, Markgraf announced Monday that he plans to retire from the Columbia Fire Department. Markgraf told City Manager Bill Watkins that he will leave on Jan. 5, 22½ years after he was named chief.
Markgraf began his career as a volunteer for the East Joliet (Ill.) Fire Department, his first job in fire service.
Markgraf has overseen a significant expansion of the Fire Department during his tenure, a period in which three new fire stations have been built.
Sapp said Markgraf hired him in November 1989, about a year after becoming chief.
“He is the only fire chief I have ever worked under,” Sapp said.
Markgraf is known for his knowledge of fire safety, including fire prevention, firefighter air supply and fire administration.
“He has been through all of this before,” Sapp said. “He’s been a fire chief for 33 years. He has a tremendous wealth of information.”
Before coming to Columbia, Markgraf worked as chief of the University City (Mo.) Fire Department for 11 years, according to a press release.
Sapp said he wasn’t surprised by Markgraf’s announcement.
“The chief has indicated that he’s been toying with this for maybe about a year now,” Sapp said. “His love for the fire service has probably kept him from announcing this.”
"It has been an honor to serve the citizens of Columbia as their fire chief for the past 22 years," Markgraf said in the release. "Citizen support has ensured that Columbia is served by one of the finest fire departments in the state and the country."
Markgraf will be remembered as a dedicated worker to the fire department.
“He has not wanted to do anything else in his life besides working with the fire service,” Sapp said. “He’s been such a fixture you expect him to be here everyday.”
The city manager will be responsible for picking the next fire chief. Markgraf and his wife, Linda, plan to stay in Columbia after he retires.