SIDNEY — Recently retired Assistant Fire Chief Mark Barga is excited to spend his days on a fishing boat instead of a fire truck or ambulance.
Barga retired on Thursday, Aug. 12, after more than 30 years of service with the Sidney Department of Fire & Emergency Services.
“I want to retire while I’m still young enough to enjoy it. I have mixed emotions (about retirement). I still love the job, but it’s a young man’s job because of the physical aspect,” Barga said on his last full day of work with the Sidney Fire Department (SFD). “(Retirement) will allow me time to do the things I want to do.”
Barga, a Sidney native, began his fire career at the Old Shelby County Civil Defense Volunteer Fire Department at age 19. He worked as a volunteer firefighter for a few of years until he tested and was able to join SFD at 23. Barga always knew he wanted to be a firefighter and follow in his father Mark Barga’s footsteps, who was a member of the SFD until 1996.
“I grew up with the fire department. I was able to work with my dad during the last four years of his career with SFD,” Barga said, noting it was a great experience to be able to work with his father.
In addition to his responsibility as the head of the “B crew” as their assistant chief, Barga was also responsible for preparing for special operations such as technical river and rope rescues. He also was in charge of team training sessions for the department that occurred once a month.
Over the years since Barga began at SFD in 1991, he said, the job became much more technical with computers and the amount of training dramatically increased.
“Everything when I started was all hand logged. Now everything is all online,” Barga said.
The type of medicine and procedures paramedics can now provide for patients changed and increased as well, he said. Also, the number of EMS calls “climbed drastically” by nearly triple, but he said the number of employees they have to respond to these calls is the same number as in 1997.
When asked what he will miss the most, Barga said “the guys.”
“I will miss the guys here the most because when you spend a third of your life here, it’s almost like a second family,” Barga said.
Barga’s wife, Lorri, said she is happy for him to be able to enjoy doing what he loves and be around more often. They just bought a new fishing boat, as fishing and hunting is Mark’s passion, and are looking forward to getting away more.
“He has worked hard, saved a lot of lives and missed time with family,” Lorri said at Mark’s retirement open house at the SFD. “But on holidays we would always be here (at the fire department) to visit and be with him.”
She pointed to a tribute firefighter tattoo on their daughter Nicole’s leg, of a fire helmet and the words, “My dad My hero.”
“That is how we feel about him,” Lorri said with emotion, and their children, Nicole, Mary and Zachery, all in agreement.
“I’m excited for him. He deserves his retirement,” Mark’s sister, Chris Newman, said at the party.
“Assistant Chief Mark Barga has been an incredible mentor to the members of the Sidney Department of Fire & Emergency Services. His knowledge in emergency vehicle operations and pump operations have been especially beneficial over his 30-plus year career with the department. Mark’s patient approach to teaching these skills has served him and department well. He has spent the past several years training up department individuals to fill the void that he will leave behind. Mark is a dear friend and someone that has personally invested his time in helping me, as well as many others, develop over his career. He will be missed,” Fire Chief Chad Hollinger said.
When asked about his plans in retirement, Barga said, “A lot of fishing and hunting and vacationing. We have three vacations planned this fall. Some local camping, a trip to Siesta Key, Florida, and a salmon fishing trip in Michigan.”
He also plans to continue working as a property manager, as he has done for the past 30 years, and possibly pick up part-time work at some point in the future.
“I’m looking forward to the time to enjoy the things I want to do like fishing and hunting. And traveling; we have a camper. And I just bought a brand new boat last week. We go all over and go to Michigan a lot,” Barga said. “It’s a major life change, but my wife is excited. She wanted me to retire in June.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.