Fort Sam firefighters recognized with awards
July 12, 2010
By L.A. Shively
- Fort Sam Houston firefighters recognized with awards
- Lewis role with fire truck upgrade
- Lewis role with establishing Fort Sam Houston Fire Department's Fire Explorers Post 1876
- Castillo recalls helping little girl
Fort Sam Houston Fire & Emergency Services recognized two of their own during an early morning ceremony June 30.
Station Capt. David Lewis was named the 2009 FSH Fire Officer of the Year for the Army and Lt. Gabriel Castillo was named the 2009 FSH Firefighter of the Year for Installation Management Command West.
Fire Chief Curtis Williams, in charge of Fire Station #1, presented each a plaque commemorating their service. Lewis is in contention for Fire Officer of the Year for the Department of Defense.
Williams lauded Lewis' and Castillo's service, saying they were instrumental in the success of the department.
Lewis has been recognized repeatedly for outstanding performance. He was named Civilian Fire Officer of the Year in 2009. Among this year's accomplishments was his role in a major upgrade of the fire engines.
"We were sitting here with trucks that were about 25 years old. With his help we were able to lease new fire engines to provide the community the protection and service they require," Williams said.
Williams said Lewis also helped develop Fort Sam Houston Fire Department's Fire Explorers Post 1876. The program teaches youth interested in the fire department about fire fighting, giving them hands-on opportunities to learn necessary skills.
Currently there are 15 to 20 young people from the community participating in the Explorers Williams said. The Explorers won two of four events at the inaugural Alamo Area Fire Explorer Competition last year.
The Fire Explorers have a special place in Lewis' heart. His dad was a police officer and his dad's best friend was a firefighter in Los Angeles, Calif., where he was raised. He said even though he considered both men heroes, there was something special about fire fighting that drew him, so he joined the Fire Explorers at 15 years old.
"I absolutely fell in love with it. I knew as a kid that's what I wanted to do, but [the Fire Explorers program] really solidified it in my mind," Lewis said.
After graduating from college in San Diego, he worked with the Navy as part of the city of San Diego's fire department; where Lewis became experienced with the military and with a variety of situations.
"We had everything from wildland fires, earthquakes, mudslides, shipboard fires on the aircraft carriers and submarines." He also worked with paramedics in downtown San Diego. "Fifteen, 19, 24 calls in a 24-hour period and a homeless population really kept us busy."
Moving to San Antonio was part of his decision to join the DoD Fire Emergencies & Services program. "On the side of our trucks it says 'Protecting those who defend America.' I feel passionate that I am able to protect the lives and the lives of the Families of the guys who are deployed keeping our nation safe. I feel blessed that I am able to serve in that capacity," Lewis said.
A firefighter for 11 years, Castillo served in the U.S. Marine Corps before starting his fire fighting career in Arizona. A home-town boy, Castillo returned to San Antonio in 2001.
He said he was drawn to fire fighting because he was awed by the gadgets, the trucks and the firefighters he met while in school. "They're super heroes," he said.
Castillo enjoys the teamwork and camaraderie in the fire department, but gets true satisfaction from helping others. He recalls helping a little girl who was trapped by a fallen tree.
"She was bleeding and semiconscious, but we got the tree off of her and rendered her aid," he said adding it was a good outcome. The little girl was fine.
Castillo credits Lewis for his own achievement. "Part of my success is from what he brought to the table. With great leadership, we have something to follow," he said, adding Lewis always supports the younger officers and junior firefighters.
Post firefighters are also trained in dealing with hazardous materials disposal, weapons of mass destruction response and all are paramedics.