LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The city’s longest-serving battalion chief is preparing to retire next week. Lawrence Wickliffe has served the valley for nearly 50 years with Las Vegas Fire & Rescue.
“I’ve had some of the largest highway-type incidents, the largest complication-type fires,” he shared.
Wickliffe started in the mid 70s when he decided to enroll in training. Fresh out of college, this was his first profession, and he was determined to go far.
“When the fire chief interviewed me when I first got hired, he said, ‘Where do you see yourself in the fire service?’ I said, ‘Your chair.'”
Throughout Wickliffe’s career, he saw the department go through many changes.
“When I got hired, women were not on the job,” he said. “I guess I became a woman’s advocate.”
As one of the very few African Americans on the job, he made an impact on the community.
“I’ve had people literally come up in the middle of a fire that I was incident commander and want to know if I was a firefighter because they’ve never seen a Black guy running a fire and in charge,” Wickliffe shared.
He’s responded to emergences that put Vegas in the international spotlight, including 1 October, the PEPCON explosion and MGM fire.
“I was out in front of the building just starting IVs and patient assessment, without even going through the hospital codes, because it was just too many people,” he recounted.
After nearly five decades of service, Wickliffe says he’s most proud of the men and women he worked with in his battalion and his ability to provide for his family.
“I would like to see us, as a group or an organization, be the uniting factor to help solve some of our country’s differences,” he said, “because it’s a profession that takes care of you. It has nothing to do with race; it has nothing to do with gender. It’s all about you as a human being.”