George Negrete’s parents, Phil and Gloria, raised him and his three older sisters in Gardena. Phil was an ace mechanic, and Gloria was a registered nurse and full-time mom. They were outstanding role models and influences on their children.
Although he initially attended Santa Monica Community College, George soon transferred to UCLA, where he was a member of the UCLA Men’s Volleyball team. The team won the national championship, but George left before his senior year to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a Los Angeles City Firefighter.
His training began in North Hollywood at Drill Tower 89. For ten weeks, George worked two twenty-four-hour shifts and one ten-hour day. It was summer, and it was hot! To this day, George remembers the challenge as one of the most difficult he ever faced. He graduated on May 15, 1977, at the age of twenty-one.
George spent his year-long probation on the westside of Los Angeles in Battalion 18. Located in the heart of the Fairfax district, Old Fire Station 61 was one of his favorite assignments since he was protecting many iconic locations he knew and visited while growing up. In 1984, he was promoted to Engineer, the rank he would eventually hold for twenty-one years. He remembers driving and maintaining a big red fire engine as a privilege — and great fun. His first assignment was Station 20, where he responded to the Central Library Fire, Baldwin Hills Fire, and major brush fires in the Valley and Malibu.
George also spent time at Station 82 in Hollywood, and soon transferred to Station 51 at Los Angeles International Airport. LAX is one of the Department’s specialized assignments, and required some adjusting: for George, it meant driving Engine 51, which was bright yellow in accordance with FAA regulations. It turned out that circumnavigating taxiing aircraft at LAX was quite challenging! At Station 51, George met and served people from all over the world. The USAir Flight 1493 crash occurred while he was there in 1991. The next year he responded to the civil disturbance in Los Angeles and the Malibu brush fire. And whenever Air Force One landed or departed, Engine 51 was always standing by.
A Dream Realized: LAFD Chaplain
George eventually transferred to his dream assignment: Station 27, in the heart of Hollywood, It was there that a fellow engineer suggested he consider becoming an LAFD chaplain. He did, and for the past twenty-one years, has served the community and fire family as a volunteer chaplain. Since his retirement in 2005, George has continued as a member of the LAFD Chaplain Corps. As a chaplain, he not only served the LAFD fire family, but also the community at large, responding to many large-scale disasters in Los Angeles and on deployment to New York’s Ground Zero in September of 2001.
Chaplains offer a source of strength, comfort, and hope, which lightens the load for firefighters, paramedics, and their families. According to George, “I want my brothers and sisters to finish well. I want them to be healthy emotionally, physically, and spiritually throughout their careers and into retirement.”
George Negrete wishes he could put into words how much this Lifetime Achievement Award means to him. “Thank you, Los Angeles Fire Department Foundation,” he says. “Thank you, City of Los Angeles. And thanks to my Fire Department family. It’s been a great ride.”
By LAFD Captain Erik Scott
Read more about Our LAFD Heroes