MASON CITY, Iowa - He has been a fixture on the Mason City Fire Department for nearly three decades. On Friday, he had his official last call.
3rd Battalion Captain Jack Odegaard's brother-in-law had experience in firefighting for the Burnsville, Minnesota Fire Department, and encouraged him to give it a shot. After spending 5 years as a volunteer on the fire squad in nearby Eagan, Odegaard returned home in July 1993.
"This is what was designed to be. I was supposed to be here, doing this."
Recently, he announced he's calling it a day and retiring after nearly 28 years. During Friday's celebration, friends, family and colleagues looked back on his time with the department, and received not only handshakes and hugs, but also a ceremonial axe from Firefighters Local 41.
During Friday's ceremony, he was given the opportunity to radio 'strike the box' to dispatch. The phrase is in reference to the mutual aid 'MABAS' system that's being established at the department, and it's something he's always wanted to say.
"They already have a preset deal sitting in front of them that tells them who they're supposed to call when I say 'strike the box.' They would call, say, Manly, Nora Springs, Clear Lake, another fire department because we need help because it's a big fire...we had a joke between him and I [Fire Chief Erik Bullinger] because I was always like, 'when are we going to get that? I know you want that. When are we going to get that? My life would be a lot easier if I could do that,' and I said I wanted to be the first one to say 'strike the box.'"
An aspect that was brought up during the ceremony: Odegaard's penchant for making lists.
"I got that from my Mom, she'd always make lists. I made lists my entire life, I even make lists at home of stuff I have to get done. I've always had a list here, it keeps me on track, keeps me doing what they got me wanting to do."
One thing he'll miss: the camraderie between other firefighters.
"Getting to know every part of their life and them everything knowing about your life. Sitting around and chatting about nothing sometimes. When we have a fire, it's nice to sit back and discuss it, see what we did right, and what we did wrong. That's what I'll miss the most."
While a job like a firefighter may seem like a high stress situation, there was always comfort in the important role they play in saving lives.
"Helping people, going to a house fire. Taking chaos and making order out of it, is probably some of the happiest times I got, where you're going in there and helping someone who's having a bad day."
He offers some advice to his successors.
"Everyday, you learn, it's a learning experience. There's always something you can learn from somebody else or put in your job. Be fair, and be consistent. Try to be that person who is always consistent, this person. You know them, and we become brothers and sisters, and we know them as brothers and sisters because we know I can count on you to do this, I know you know how to do this, I don't have to tell you how to do that. Because you become so close and so tight knit, sometimes we communicate without words."
During his retirement, he plans to do some hunting and fishing. However, he says retiring from working and a consistent routine feels surreal.
"You're always doing something, always going somewhere, always working. Now it's kind of strange to get up, and I don't have to go to work."