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Volunteer firefighter hangs up gear after 11 years

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SNOQUALMIE - Mark Rothgeb, a longtime volunteer firefighter with the Snoqualmie Fire Department, has decided to hang up his bunker gear after 11 years.

Rothgeb, a long contributing member of the community, has transitioned through three administrations in the department, gained more than 10 various certifications to aid in his position as firefighter and will be remembered for his example of loyalty and legacy to the Valley.

In November Rothgeb stepped away from the department to concentrate on the professional aspect of his life, in part because of his achievement in two promotions.

Rothgeb's service started when he arrived in the Snoqualmie Valley following a move from Arizona. With a long-standing childhood dream to be a firefighter - his uncle was a fire station chief on the East Coast - and a need to lead by example as a contributing community member for his four children, volunteering in the department was an easy fit.

In his first year of service the Snoqualmie station had 440 calls, an incredibly high number for one year. This was an early challenge for Rothgeb; trying to balance the demands of working full-time, his volunteering and his family.

"It took adjusting, but it was a balancing act. It became hard when I became involved in Cub Scouts and then Little League football. It was a large test for scheduling," Rothgeb said.

The community aspect of the volunteering position always was an incredible experience, according to Rothgeb.

"It was rewarding to drive the mayor during the parade on the Fourth of July and become an active part of the community," he said.

As the years passed, Rothgeb transitioned with the change in administrative lead from Snoqualmie Fire Department to King County Fire District 10. Changes and more experience volunteering led Rothgeb to specialize in wildland firefighting and he soon became a trainer for many firefighters, both volunteer and professional, at the Washington State Patrol Fire Training Academy and the Volunteer Fire Academy at District 10.

Rothgeb has remained an exceptional example of the effort required from a volunteer firefighter. Within his 11 years, he has witnessed the number of volunteers fluctuate between 38 and 10.

One of the biggest thrills Rothgeb received while a volunteer came when his son Derek followed in his footsteps for 18 months.

"The proudest day of my service was when my son became a volunteer, too. It was great to have two generations in the force and with the new department, this wasn't very common," said Rothgeb.

For Rothgeb's family, it was an honor to have their father always out doing good.

"He did a great service for the community and I'm very proud. The volunteering becomes a part of everyone's life, and you always schedule with it. There is a lot of understanding required, but it is always fulfilling to know he is doing good," explains Jill Rothgeb, Mark's wife.

The Snoqualmie Fire Department has lost a legacy in volunteering, Lieutenant Kelly Gall explains.

"He was extremely dedicated, shown in the fact he was one of the original volunteers, and showed continuous service through three organizations. He did an exceptional service in the community and everyone knew him," Gall said.

Despite the new chapters that lie ahead, Rothgeb said he's going to miss volunteering.

"I'm sad to leave but it was a job full of fulfillment, and you have to do it out of desire and you must be dedicated. It isn't about the money, it is about the passion. You always have to keep this in mind, this is what you have wanted to do since you were six, but the job isn't for everyone," he said.

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