Mark Pautz remembers when he was 33-years-old with two kids and no job between him and his wife.
“Failure was not an option because I’d given up too much and we had a lot to lose,” Pautz said.
“Scary,” said Pautz about what it was like moving from Southern California to Oregon with no job and two kids. “If you want to talk scary about the fire service, that was probably more scary than anything.”
That all changed in August 1995, when he got into a resident student program to become a firefighter.
“It was like somebody had given me a second chance,” he said. “The student program was probably the best thing to ever happen to me because it just opened the door.”
That door led to 25 years of service with the La Pine Rural Fire Protection District.
Pautz retired on Tuesday.
The oldest student working with a crew of only 6, in a town with no traffic lights.
“My job then was basically do whatever they wanted me to do,” Pautz said. “I was the low man on the totem pole. It was firefighting, engineering, EMS, pretty much just an extra set of hands for the career staff at the time.”
Success was his only choice.
“I wasn’t going to let them down,’ Pautz added. “I was going to make sure they knew they didn’t make the wrong choice.”
The three year program was a success, Pautz was hired by the La Pine Rural Fire Protection District and 25 years later, 10 as a captain, Pautz retired at age 59.
“I would not change a thing,” he said. “Wouldn’t change a thing. Best job in the world. The best career in the world. What it has done for me and my family is priceless.”
His retirement plans.
“I always told myself when I retire I know what I am going to do,” Pautz said. “I am going to get a job at a golf course and get free golf and that is what I am doing.”
To honor his service, the station gave Pautz a plaque with the axe he used for 15 years and hoses directed as the American flag.