The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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May 4, 2013

State fire marshal Sterling Lewis retires

— After 13 years of overseeing fire safety and the departments that provide West Virginians a measure of security, Sterling Lewis has retired as the state marshal.

A Raleigh County native, Lewis put in his time as a firefighter, ultimately serving as chief for many years of the Beaver Volunteer Fire Department.

Before becoming state marshal, he was a teacher and football coach at Shady Spring High School.

“He was very aggressive,” his chief deputy and interim marshal Anthony Carrico said Friday.

“I think he did some good things. I think one of his crowning achievements was probably the fire services division, which basically was implemented to help assist fire departments with complying with regulations of the state Fire Commission.”

Lewis was a frequent speaker when called before legislative interims committees in recent years to discuss issues that affected fire safety and prevention.

As marshal, his jurisdiction embraced some 11 full-time paid departments and 417 volunteer ones.

“I won’t call him a micro-manager, but he was very hands on,” Carrico.

“He liked to know what all these people were doing at all times.”

Carrico said Lewis played an instrumental role in getting training upgraded for all firefighters across the state.

“He had a very big part in that,” Carrico said.

“I’d say the training is always evolving and improving. In conjunction with the Fire Commission, we’ve done a lot for services as a whole.”

Volunteer firefighters played a role in the year’s special legislative session when lawmakers approved — and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed — HB103 that provides money for the units to meet workers’ compensation premiums.

Many departments have struggled since the premiums went up dramatically the past two years.

Now, the volunteers are eligible to apply for assistance in making those insurance payments through a special fund.

Carrico said his former boss at the marshal’s office was “pretty easy going” but firm in running the agency.

“He expected his people to do their jobs,” he said.

“I think he was quite proud of the job that the office did and the people that did the work.”

Carrico has invested 21 years with the agency, and spent the last 13 as Lewis’ chief deputy the entire tenure that he was marshal.

As for choosing a permanent successor, Carrico said the 13-member Fire Commission is already in deliberations.

“I understand Chairman Bob Sullivan is going to take time to review the candidates and do this right,” added Carrico, who spent two decades as a member of the Madison VFD in Boone County.

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com

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