By Tim Hudson
Friday will be the end of an era for the Bartlesville Fire Department as Training and Public Information Officer Bill Hollander retires after 35 years.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed serving and helping the citizens of our community over the years,” Hollander said. “Having worked with both police and fire, I can attest to the passion that both agencies have about serving the citizens of our community. Our citizens are truly blessed to have dedicated professionals from both departments working hard every day to serve our city.”
Hollander was originally hired by then BFD Chief George Oates in March 1986. There was no 911 service yet, and Hollander says that the emergency number was 336-1313. At that time Hollander started off riding on the back of the fire truck’s tailboard, holding onto a bar. He then began rising through the ranks from firefighter to equipment operator to captain and eventually to training officer, safety officer, and public information officer. In the capacity of PIO Hollander became quite well known, giving media interviews about the department to area newspapers and television and radio stations.
In 2001 Hollander completed the 14-week Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training (CLEET ) enabling him to become a certified law enforcement officer and arson investigator for the fire department.
As an arson investigator, Hollander found a true niche and became known on a larger level. In his tenure with the BFD, Hollander investigated well over 200 fires in Bartlesville and the surrounding area. These cases included the high profile fire that destroyed the May Brothers building in 2008. After a lengthy investigation, in which Hollander pursued the suspect through several states over the course of several months, he was eventually able to prove the case and elicited guilty pleas from two individuals about their involvement in the fire with the motive of collecting insurance money from a failing restaurant endeavor.
It was the on the heels of that investigation and numerous other cases that Hollander received the 2008 Arson Investigator of the Year award from Oklahoma Chapter of the International Association of Arson Investigators. By virtue of that award, he was entered as a finalist for the International’s yearly Top Investigator of the World award. Hollander has served on the board of the Oklahoma Chapter of the I.A.A.I for the last seven years and is currently the President of the Oklahoma Chapter.
Additionally, he taught hundreds of hours of fire education and fire extinguisher training to many local businesses, corporations and schools in the area.
“Bill Hollander is a great example of dedication to the fire service,” said Bartlesville City Manager Mike Bailey. “He has been involved in more critical incidents than most citizens will ever know during his decades of service. Bill has been instrumental in bringing arsonists to justice and has saved many lives and homes. Our community is safer due to his service and sacrifice. He will truly be missed.”
For the immediate future, Hollander says that he looks forward to consulting on future arson cases.
“I’m looking forward to doing investigation and consulting work with state, local and private entities going forward and spending more time with my family,” he said. “I cherish the many true friendships that I made during my career and I wish the best for all of my successors.”
Hollander says that he is honored and grateful to have worked with so many dedicated professionals during his lengthy career.