(Le Mars) — For the past 40 years, Mark Hentges of Le Mars has responded to the call to fight fires, perform rescues, help at vehicle accidents, detect natural gas and propane leaks, investigate a build up of carbon monoxide in homes, act upon and clean up a hazard materials spill, and a whole list of
other duties and responsibilities of being a member of the Le Mars Fire and Rescue Department. On Thursday, January 23rd, Hentges turned in his firefighter helmet and turnout gear as he officially retired as a firefighter. Hentges rose to the rank of captain, and for a time, also as the assistant chief with the department, and worked with three different fire chiefs. He tells what got him interested in becoming a firefighter.
At the time Hentges first started as a Le Mars firefighter, the fire station was located on the north end of Central Avenue, or what now is the Turn Around Dance Academy. He says because of the proximity of his employment with the Le Mars Daily Sentinel to the then fire station, he would often be able to be the first one on the scene of an emergency.
Hentges says he has seen far too many vehicle accidents during his career as a fire and rescue member, and they all seem to blend together in his memory. But, he does recall, specifically, three incidents involving fires or explosions.
The retiring firefighter says he always wanted to extend a hand to those that faced adversity either through a home fire, or a tragic vehicle accident, or any other emergency.
Fortunately, according to Hentges, the greatest changes that have occurred over his 40-year career is the equipment used has become safer.
He says the turn-out clothing gear is safer, along with the air packs and oxygen masks worn into fires and other dangerous situations have become better for the firefighter. He recalls the time when the Le Mars Fire and Rescue Department acquired its first ladder truck, and the trucks since that time that have been added to the fleet.
Hentges says he will not miss waking up in the middle of the night to respond to a vehicle accident, or a fire. However, he will miss the brotherhood and camaraderie and “family atmosphere” he had with his fellow firefighters.
Hentges is pleased to have his son, and sons-in-law carry on the tradition as they too have become full-time firefighters and paramedics in central Iowa. Le Mars Firefighter Number 31 is now officially off duty.