'Strike the box': longtime Mason City fire captain retiring

Friends, family and colleagues are celebrating the career of 3rd Battalion Captain Jack Odegaard, who is retiring after nearly 28 years

Posted: May 7, 2021 10:14 PM
Updated: May 8, 2021 8:09 AM

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."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 603876

Reported Deaths: 7610
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1247791772
Ramsey52449895
Dakota46780470
Anoka42709458
Washington27396290
Stearns22549224
St. Louis18123312
Scott17540134
Wright16404148
Olmsted13387102
Sherburne1200094
Carver1065948
Clay825492
Rice8186110
Blue Earth762343
Crow Wing681494
Kandiyohi667285
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Otter Tail585684
Benton582898
Goodhue483373
Douglas475381
Mower470733
Winona461151
Itasca458963
Isanti439664
McLeod429761
Morrison424462
Nobles407950
Beltrami407160
Steele397416
Polk389072
Becker386555
Lyon363853
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Nicollet330945
Mille Lacs311454
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Aitkin138637
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Pope11296
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Stevens92411
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Marshall88717
Wilkin83112
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Grant5938
Lincoln5843
Mahnomen5669
Norman5479
Kittson49022
Unassigned48093
Red Lake4017
Traverse3755
Lake of the Woods3453
Cook1720

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 370654

Reported Deaths: 6041
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk58194638
Linn21186339
Scott20290246
Black Hawk16075312
Woodbury15231230
Johnson1461085
Dubuque13501211
Dallas1128599
Pottawattamie11218173
Story1070848
Warren583691
Clinton561493
Cerro Gordo553293
Sioux516974
Webster515194
Muscatine4876106
Marshall486476
Des Moines466970
Wapello4333122
Buena Vista426140
Jasper420972
Plymouth402881
Lee381956
Marion365976
Jones300857
Henry294137
Bremer287760
Carroll286852
Boone268334
Crawford267740
Benton259255
Washington256651
Dickinson249444
Mahaska232351
Jackson225242
Clay216527
Kossuth216166
Tama211771
Delaware210943
Winneshiek197935
Page194522
Buchanan193233
Cedar192123
Hardin187344
Fayette186443
Wright185940
Hamilton181851
Harrison179973
Clayton171057
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Mills163324
Floyd163042
Cherokee159438
Lyon158841
Poweshiek156936
Allamakee152652
Hancock150134
Iowa149824
Winnebago144331
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Grundy137133
Emmet135841
Jefferson133535
Shelby131437
Sac130820
Union129935
Louisa129749
Appanoose129049
Mitchell126643
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Humboldt119526
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Clarke100924
Keokuk96432
Monroe96230
Unassigned9540
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Davis85225
Monona82931
Osceola79016
Greene78011
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Worth7598
Taylor66712
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Decatur6159
Ringgold56324
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