The Fire District had two seats up for election belonging to incumbents Jim Lewis and John Tillotson. Because no one put their names in the hat to run against them, both Lewis and Tillotson have resumed their roles in their district board chairs.
Lewis sat down with the Tribune to talk about his past and current terms, and also the hot EMS issue.
Lewis was first elected onto the board eight years ago in 2006.
“I wanted to run for another four-year term,” Lewis explained, “because I have already been on it for so long, and I want to make sure that our firemen are safe.”
Lewis works as a truck driver for his day job, and loves it because he gets to jump in a truck and drive. He got started in the business when he earned his Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) in 2011.
As a Westcliffe local, Lewis has a lot of love for the Valley and the people in it. For his past two terms on the Fire District Board, he is most proud to acquire and maintain good, new equipment for the men.
“I’m glad to put our firemen into good gear,” Lewis said. “We have 34 firemen and four junior cadets, and we are like a brotherhood. When we know that one of our buddies is in trouble, we don’t hesitate to help them. We look after each other. We are very close.”
Lewis stated that the board is aware of the tragedy that occurred in Arizona last year when 19 firefighters died in a wildfire. The board is focused on training its crew to be focused on fire safety dos and don’ts.
“We take what they did in Arizona,” Lewis said, “we look at what they did and we won’t do it.”
Lewis explained that this year’s fire season will be smaller than last year, but it depends on the intensity and number of lightning storms that Colorado will start flaring in late May.
Though Lewis has been on the board for eight years, he first served as a volunteer for 18 years.
“I got started as a volunteer,” he said, “because, while I was working construction, there were a few guys who were with the department and I would listen to them talk about it. It sounded like something I would be interested in, so I went to a meeting and joined.”
Lewis is an EMT for the local EMS services. He has been an EMT since 2009.
Lewis is also on the EMS committee to decide where to put the local EMS, if it should stay under the Hospital District or be placed under the Fire District.
“I wish the Fire Department would take it over,” Lewis said. “At least until we formed an ambulance district. EMS can also receive special grants while they are under the umbrella of the Fire District, since the rules are different for us.”
Lewis explained that the board and members in the department are very diligent to ensure that everything is in line before a decision is made concerning the ambulance.
“I’m really trying to push for the district to take the EMS on,” Lewis said. “The Hospital District has enough on itsplate. It shouldn’t have to look over two entities.”
John Tillotson, who filled the second open seat on the board, declined to do an interview because he wishes to stay out of the political arena. However, over the phone he explained he is researching the issue regarding EMS and wishes only to help maintain the Fire District’s wellbeing.
The EMS committee meets again on Tuesday, April 15 at 5 p.m. in the Fire House.
– J.E. Ward