Although he is only 4-foot-3 inches tall, Mark Vogel has made it big - he was accepted last week as a volunteer firefighter in the town of Secaucus, and is perhaps the shortest firefighter in the state. "I've wanted this all my life," said the diminutive resident last week at his job at the Secaucus Nutrition Center. "Actually, I wanted to be a cop, but since I couldn't be that, I wanted this." Police departments have height requirements, but the language in laws regarding firefighting is more vague and pertains to physical abilities. At 32, Vogel joins an elite group of determined men under 5 feet tall who have joined the ranks of firefighters across the country, several belonging to volunteer departments like in Secaucus. One is actually a paid firefighter in Las Vegas. Technically, Vogel has been working as a First Responder for the Moonachie Volunteer Fire Department since 1997, as part of the medical response team that helps evaluate and care for injured persons until Emergency Medical Technicians or paramedics can arrive on a scene. In Secaucus, Vogel will serve as a firefighter at the Washington Hook and Ladder Company. He graduated from the Bergen County Police and Fire academy in Mahwah earlier this month and passed his physical examination. Although Vogel wanted to be a firefighter, he didn't make the move until 1997 because, he says, he was "a little scared." Vogel, whose father was a Secaucus police officer for 25 years, said, "I was worried that I couldn't do it, or that I couldn't pass." But encouragement from friends helped him overcome his fear - particularly a man named Harry Baker who helped get him on to the Moonachie Fire Department. "I started out in first aid, and that gave me a chance to show what I could do," he said. Vogel said Second Lt. Raymond Cieciuch encouraged him to join the Secaucus Volunteer Fire Department, and that he has had support from various chiefs, making it possible for him to make the move. Vogel said his 18 weeks at the fire academy did not come easily. He had to work hard and overcome obstacles. For thing, he was never comfortable with climbing a ladder, but found that through determination, he could do that and any other duty required of him as a firefighter. "I was a little nervous when I went through the academy," he said. "I had second thoughts that I could do it." While he got no special treatment, he did get support of those who he trained with at the academy. "I figured it would be rough, but if I didn't go for it, I would never know if I could do it or not," Vogel said. Of the job, he said, "I wouldn't do this if I didn't think I could. I would never put anyone in danger. The school would not have passed me if they didn't think I could. They would have too much liability." People have been surprised to see Vogel when he comes out on a call wearing equipment that is either specially made or cut down to fit his size. While he has not yet responded to a fully engaged fire either in Moonachie or Secaucus, and is a little apprehensive about the experience, he has been to working fires and found himself confident in his abilities. Although his father is deceased, Vogel feels the man would have been proud of him. He also said his mother is very happy about his appointment. As a volunteer fire fighter, Vogel is only required to take the basic fire training immediately, whereas paid departments are required to take parts one and two right away. Vogel said he intends to keep on advancing, learning more and doing more. "I want to take more advanced training and get more experience," he said. Vogel said no one has treated him badly. "People are supportive," he said. "But if they did treat me badly, I wouldn't pay any attention to them. Most people treat me like anybody else, which is the way I like it." In fact, he said he wouldn't let anyone give him special treatment, either. "I want to earn my way the way other people do," he said. "I don't want any special favors." Yet the experience has left him philosophical. "If you want something in life, you have to go for it," he said. "How can you know if you can get it or not unless you try?" Vogel said the election victory of Councilman Tony Soares in Hoboken has inspired him. "Who knows?" Vogel said. "I might like to run for council someday, too."