Sunday, April 29, 2018 | 2 a.m.
Mark Lester politely brushes aside congratulations for being named Henderson’s Firefighter of the Year. The real reward, he says, is in the faces of a small group of cardiac arrest survivors invited to a recent awards ceremony to reunite with the medics who saved their lives.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Lester, 36, said. It’s that selfless spirit that earned him the Henderson Fire Department’s top honor.
Lester, who was recently promoted to engineer, is the father of three boys, a baseball coach and director of a golf tournament to honor former Henderson firefighter Jeff Mann, who died of cancer in 2009. He is also president of the Henderson Firefighters Benevolent Association.
Lester decided when he was 10 years old that he wanted to be a firefighter after touring a neighborhood firehouse.
“My mom told me that when I was there, I told her, ‘Hey I want to be a firefighter and I want to work at this station,’” Lester said. A few years later, he joined the department’s Explorer Program for teens interested in the fire service.
While on a ride-along, a medical crew resuscitated a cardiac arrest patient, whose family later visited the firehouse to thank them.
That sealed it.
As soon as he turned 18, he started testing with multiple fire departments. In the meantime, he worked as a waiter, bartender, a manager at a cell phone company and, for a couple of years, a reserve firefighter in Boulder City.
Finally, when he was 24, he got his shot with the Henderson Fire Department — at that same station he visited when he was a boy.
He recalls vividly his first call to a house fire. He knew everyone would be watching him and was relieved when he got high-fives and heard the words, “Good job, rook.”
Since then, he has continued to focus on helping people every day.
“If someone picks up the phone and dials those three digits (911), they’re having a bad day,” Lester said. “Knowing I get to wake up and come do something I really love to do and have an impact on my community, that’s the best drive we got.”