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Statement by Oswego County Fire Coordinator on the Passing of Deputy Fire Coordinator Al Heath

Al Heath

Al Heath

OSWEGO – Passing of a Great Man ….

Al Heath
Al Heath

On January 28, 2017, the Oswego County Fire Service lost a brother firefighter who exemplified the “Volunteer Firefighter.”

Al Heath, better known as “Haz Mat Al,” passed away this past Saturday after a yearlong battle with cancer.

Al’s career in the fire service started when he joined the US Navy in 1970 – 1976, serving as a Damage Control Specialist and later as a Damage Control Instructor.

Bringing those skills home, he joined the Fayetteville Volunteer Fire Department in 1973 to 1981. In 1981 he became the Supervisor of Fire Protection at the James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Station, working there through 1994.

In May of 1981 he joined the Minetto Volunteer Fire Department.

Over his 36 years there he served as a line officer, assistant chief (more than once) and chief from 1985 – 2002.

Al was a New York State Fire Instructor for 30 years (1986-2016) and owned / operated Fire Pro Technical Services (part time ’88-’94 and full-time ’94-2017).

He was appointed Oswego County Deputy Fire Coordinator in charge of Special Operations in 2002.

It was through these three positions that Al worked tirelessly to improve the skills of firefighters in Oswego County and surrounding areas in all aspects of emergency response.

His passion for Hazardous Materials Response took Al all over the northeast.

Teaching or learning, he never stopped. If he could make it better he would; if he could teach someone at the same time, that was a plus.

Al was the driving force and led the way to make Oswego County’s Hazardous Materials Emergency Response Team and (his other passion) the County Rope Rescue Team one of the best anywhere.

If you were at a fire function or even on vacation and you said you were from Oswego County, NY, other firefighters would ask if you knew “Haz Mat Al.”

Over his 44 years in the fire service, Al touched generations of firefighters — both volunteer and career — and they are all better for it.

More than once he would say, “I taught your father in class,” including me.

Over the years Al taught three generations of my family.

I have had the privilege of knowing Al since the 1980s as a brother firefighter, instructor, co-worker, fellow state fire instructor, deputy fire coordinator and most of all a friend.

Al was a friend to everyone in the fire service, always willing to sit and talk about anything to do with fire, ropes or Haz Mat. If you had a question, he usually had an answer.

Along the way, Al and his wife, Jeanette, raised three boys (two of which are firefighters), who in turn gave him his pride and joy (four grandchildren and three step-grandchildren).

Nothing made him happier.

The loss of OS 600 “Haz Mat Al” is a huge blow to the fire service of Oswego County and surrounding counties.

The void will be very difficult to fill. Al was a “one of a kind” firefighter, fire instructor and friend.

Al will be deeply missed by his family and all those who knew him.

It is an honor to call him my friend!

Donald J. Forbes
Oswego County Fire Coordinator

4 Comments

  1. Well said my friend, a wonderful honor for a wonderful person, R Alan Heath the best of the best. Thank you Don, for paying such an outstanding honor to my friend, Al Heath OS-600. He will be truly missed by ALL of us. God Bless him and his Family

  2. Don,
    A great piece written. A am very sorry for the loss of your friend and my sincere condolences to the Heath family, Minetto VFD, and to all who knew this great man. I have had the honor and privilege to meet Mr. Heath at the quarterly Oswego County LEPC meetings. Very well educated in the field of emergency management and fire science, Mr. Heath will truly be missed.

  3. Extremely well written and said Mr. Forbes. Your passion and respect for Chief Heath could be felt all the way here in tiny downtown Taunton. Al touched so many lives in the fire service both near and far, but only you Mr. Donald Forbes, could have written so eloquently this farewell.
    Best Regards,

    Gordy Kotars
    Past Chief, Taunton Fire Dept
    Onondaga County

  4. Al was one of the greatest that I have ever met in my life. I always had the upmost respect for him and his knowledge of firefighting. He always met me with a smile and was glad to see me. We both had mutual respect for each other for serving our great Nation.He in the Navy and I in the Marines. He would often tell me that I was a branch of the Navy. I will miss him and remember him as long as I live. I sure hope that he sees my Dad where he is now. I’m sure they are sharing stories if they are together. My Dad was a Marine also and the most powerful person I ever knew. God speed, I miss my Dad so much and will always miss Al as much.

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