TOWN OF TURTLE - Fire Department Assistant Chief Mike Soderberg retired on Feb. 10 after more than three decades of loyal service.
He not only battled blazes, but worked on many other department improvements.
"Being here 37 years he had a draw to this place, and we had a draw to him. He was an indispensable resource to us. Not only was he a good leader, but he was mechanically inclined and maintained vehicles. He spent countless hours here on his personal time fixing and maintaining equipment and developing policy," said Chief Jason Rowland.
Soderberg expects a smooth transition. He said Brian Reddy has been appointed assistant chief, and Brian Rogers is deputy chief.
There is a retirement party being planned for Soderberg at Shopiere Center on April 7.
Soderberg, who works for Corporate Contractors Inc., said it was finally time to retire, although he will miss the team.
Soderberg has always been drawn to fire departments. He began at a department in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania when he was working as a journeyman machinist. He returned to Wisconsin and joined the Town of Turtle Fire Department in July of 1981.
He served as Treasurer from 1984 until he resigned, and has been assistant chief since 1994. Soderberg was also an EMT from 1989 to 1999.
Soderberg said firefighting is one of the few jobs where strangers are welcomed into people's homes with complete trust.
When he first came on board in Turtle, he said there was a 1978 pumper engine and an old milk truck being used as a tanker. He said the department came a long way in the coming years in regards to technology.
Although he loved firefighting, Soderberg liked to lend a hand with whatever issue was pressing at the time.
"We either fixed our own equipment or had to pay to get it fixed. I spent a lot of spare time fixing stuff," he said. "In the volunteer department, every person that goes to the fire has to be able to do everything, from pulling hose off the truck to running the fire."
Soderberg also worked on operating guidelines and requisite certification for the pump operator position. He said the pump operator is the first one on scene with the engine and one of the most critical positions.
Soderberg took the fire service seriously, coaching newcomers that the volunteer department is much more than a club.
"It's a commitment," he said.