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Bazetta chief concludes 39-year firefighting career

BAZETTA — After starting his firefighting career in the early 1980s as a junior firefighter and now ending it as a fire chief for the past 12 years, Dennis Lewis is retiring from public office. His last official work day was Friday.

Lewis, who has seen many changes in the past 39 years, including the opening of a new fire department building near Mosquito Lake State Park, said he will miss serving the Bazetta community he grew up in.

It was on Jan. 4, 1983, at age 15 when Lewis joined the Bazetta Fire Department as a junior firefighter while still attending Lakeview High School.

“As a junior or cadet you could become part of the fire department and still be in school. From 1983 to 1987, the Bazetta Fire Department had more than 20 junior firefighters all under age 18. It was a great program to be part of,” Lewis said.

Lewis said junior firefighters were not allowed to drive firetrucks but could go out to fires in second vehicles with a certified firefighter. Lewis said he was able to become an emergency medical technician in high school, which has since changed and now requires a person be age 18 and out of school to get certified.

He said junior firefighters would wrap up the fire hose and wash trucks, but could not fight fires.

He is a second-generation firefighter as his father, Robert Lewis, now retired, was chief for more than 25 years from 1978 to 2003.

Lewis said he originally wanted to be a math teacher until he went on a fire call as a junior firefighter and lost a classmate in a vehicle crash.

Read more in Sunday’s Tribune Chronicle.

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