Over the years, many children have imagined and dreamed of being a firefighter. Sirens, lights, excitement, and danger can be definite draws.
The Firefighters Prayer, perhaps, says it all: ”When I am called to duty, God wherever flames may rage, give me strength to save a life, whatever be its age”.
Al Gillespie, a 1970 R.A. Long graduate, began his firefighting journey in 1977 as a volunteer. Three years later, he made it his career, and its trajectory took off like a wildfire.
Gillespie has served as a Paramedic, Company officer, and Battalion Fire Chief in Hazel Dell, WA and as Fire Chief in Yakima, WA, Augusta, GA, and Las Vegas, NV.
As a member of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), Gillespie has served in many capacities, including as the treasurer and vice-chairman of the Safety, Health, and Survival section. He participated in the association’s Membership Task Force. In 2010 he served as vice president. In 2011, he was installed as president and chairman of the board.
In addition to the IAFC, he has served as a board member of the National Society of Executive Fire Officers and as secretary/treasurer of that organization. He is also a designated chief fire officer through the Center for Public Safety Excellence and is a member (MIFireE) of the institution of Fire Engineers.
As a member of the Public Safety Advisory Board, Gillespie has testified before both the United States Senate and House committees on issues related to public safety communications and emergency medical response. He has also worked with Congress on how to protect the country from chemical warfare.
When the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack happened, the communication for First Responders was compromised by overloaded broadband systems. The result was more chaos and frustration during critical times. Gillespie was a pioneer team member in implementing a dedicated broadband system for First Responders. This system makes it possible for First Responders to communicate during disasters, terrorist attacks, and other mass casualty events.
Gillespie has received a fellowship at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard; a Bachelor of Science degree in Fire Administration; two Associate degrees; a Management certificate and a certificate of completion of the Executive Fire Officer Program from the National Fire Academy. Gillespie, who now lives in Vancouver, WA and Las Vegas, NV, is an alternate on the NFPA Technical Committee for Fire Service Occupational Safety and Health board.
Gillespie has held IAFC conferences around the world including Venice, Rome, Zurich, Canada, Guam, Saipan, and Tokyo and various cities throughout the United States.