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Family's volunteer firefighters spark entrepreneur's career

Mark Masters, owner of Chloeta Fire LLC, has been named national young entrepreneur of the year by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
by Paula Burkes Published: May 6, 2012

Q: What made you aspire to fight fires?

A: My dad, grandfather and great-grandfather were volunteer firefighters, each with 20 years' service. An uncle volunteered 12 years, and my other grandfather — my maternal grandfather — served as a firefighter and tower lookout with Oklahoma's forestry services. He had friends who'd go out and work in the summertime fighting those fires you see on TV in Yellowstone and elsewhere, and come back and tell stories and show pictures. That sparked an interest.

Q: So when did you start as a firefighter?

A: At 18. Working as a seasonal federal firefighter — for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Oklahoma Forestry services — is how I paid for college. I skipped a lot of classes to fight fires. Over seven years, I had 15 different addresses. I started at $9.42 an hour in 2001 as a firefighter in Oregon and retired nine years later, as an administrative employee of the Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.

Q: What made you start your own business?

A: My wife and I wanted to move back to Oklahoma, and there was no job here for me. I saw the opportunity in the industry for quality contracted help, and decided to take it. We started out with a pickup truck on a dirt floor of a barn in Jay, and I worked from my laptop in my kitchen here.

Q: What's behind your company's name?

A: Chloeta (pronounced Shu-Lay-Tuh) is Cherokee and the name of a community near Jay. The name gives me and our other employees the opportunity to proudly say we're from Oklahoma. My great-grandfather came here on the Trail of Tears, and had allotment land north of Jay. The Bureau of Indian Affairs has me at 3/32nd Cherokee, but I know I'm more. I'm also part Choctaw.

by Paula Burkes
A 1981 journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University, Paula Burkes has more than 30 years experience writing and editing award-winning material for newspapers and healthcare, educational and telecommunications institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma...
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Mark Masters

• Position: Chloeta Fire LLC, chief executive

• Birth date: Jan. 1, 1983

• Family: Paige, wife of five years and new counsel with Crowe & Dunlevy law firm. They met at Oklahoma State University, where he was a Beta Theta Pi and she, a Kappa Alpha Theta

• Education: OSU, bachelor's in ecology

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