Firefighters are like family says retiring chief

lovis Fire Chief Ron Edwards will be retiring at the end of the month after 31 years with the Clovis Fire Department. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Mike Linn: CNJ news editor

Much has happened in the 31 years Fire Chief Ron Edwards has been employed with the Clovis Fire Department: He was among several firefighters to fight a vicious fire that destroyed the Tower Theater in Portales in the mid-1970s; his fellow employees once dumped flour in his bed while he was in the shower; and his coworkers say his calm temperament in the face of emergency is one of his greatest assets.

For Edwards, a former technician in the Air Force who will retire as chief at the end of the month, the family that is the Clovis Fire Department is not unlike the Cartwrights of the television classic “Bonanza.”

“The Cartwrights, did they fight amongst one another? Yes they did. The three brothers were always fighting, but when someone from the outside world messed with them, they all banded together. That’s kind of like the firefighter family. We argue and fuss and fight, nothing serious, but we take care of business when the time is needed,” Edwards said.

Like many families, Edwards said firefighters are not above practical jokes at the station.

When he was a lieutenant more than 20 years ago, Edwards said his coworkers foiled him into lying in a flour-doused bed after taking a shower. For six months after the incident he planned payback.

“It was all in fun,” Edwards said.

For the majority of his time in the department — 20 years until 2002 — Edwards served as the city’s fire marshal. He was then promoted to assistant fire chief and later hired as fire chief in March of 2003.

Edwards said his toughest day on the job was when a fire engulfed the Tower Theater in Portales, completely burning the building and neighboring businesses. The wind was blowing about 50 miles per hour, Edwards said, and by the end of the day the fire torched about half a block in downtown Portales.

Edwards, who was a driver at the time, said Clovis and Cannon Air Force Base fire departments were called to assist the Portales Fire Department with the fire.

Assistant Fire Chief Ray Westerman said Edwards’ ability to think clearly and calmly in tough situations will mark his time at the fire department.

In his early years, Westerman said he was having a difficult time with a supervisor, and Edwards offered to mediate the situation.

“They got it resolved. It probably saved my career here in Clovis. He’s always been easy to get along with. He could provide some of the more hot-headed individuals with a cool temperament,” he said.

Edwards said a former coworker told him his calm temperament has helped save not just careers but lives.

A truck driver in California and former firefighter 20 years ago in Clovis called Edwards years ago after providing aid to a mother and daughter in a car accident in California.
He told Edwards that he helped save two lives in California that day. Confused and in Clovis, Edwards asked how.

According to Edwards, the man said he came up on the wreck, was excited and didn’t know what to do.

Then he thought of how Edwards acted during emergencies, and the man stopped the bleeding in one of the victims and called for help. Both mother and daughter survived, Edwards said.

“He said ‘I just wanted to let you know you saved a mother and a little girl because what you had done early on in my career,’” Edwards recalled. “It brought a tear to my eye.

Those moments are proud. You never know who you are going to influence so every minute of the day you treat everyone fairly and kindly, and that’s what I’ve always tried to do.”