It’s time to elect Uniondale’s fire commissioner

Avril Ashley sole candidate after Reynand Accius withdrew


Electing the fire commissioner for the Uniondale Fire District will be easy this year. But that doesn’t mean Uniondale voters shouldn’t attend the election on Tuesday, Dec. 12, from 2-9 p.m. at the Sherman Van Ness Fire Station, 154 Uniondale Ave.

“It’s my first time running for fire commissioner,” said Lt. Avril Ashley, 48. His opponent, Reynand Accius, bowed out of the race for reasons unstated, but, said Ashley, “I would still like to see people come out and vote because it shows support instead of hey, this guy got it on a free ride.”

Ashley has been with the department for 17 years. He has twice been captain at his home company, Manor Company 3, which is housed in the Van Ness station; was twice second lieutenant there, and twice first lieutenant; served as second assistant chief of the Uniondale Fire Department 2018-2019, first assistant chief 2019-2020, and chief 2020-2021.

With the support of his wife, AnnMarie Ashley, the lieutenant, who bought his home in Uniondale in 2003, has applied himself to serving his community.

“Throughout my life and no matter what career I was in,” he said, “I’ve always looked to help others that are less fortunate and are in need. As a father figure, I’m always looking to better myself as a community mentor.”

A father figure, indeed. Ashley has seven children, ranging in age from his oldest, 27-year-old Avril Ashley, Jr., to his youngest, ninth-grader Mya, all of them current or former students in the Uniondale school district.

“The problem I have is t-shirts and socks,” said Ashley, smiling. “They all take them. I’ll say, I’ll buy you your own. They say, no, no, we’ll just take yours. Not the ones with the holes in them, though.”

Thinking about his firefighting years, Ashley remembered one particular call as “the highlight of my firefighting career, funny and true and sad.”

It was 6 a.m. on July 21, 2018, AnnMarie’s birthday, when an alarm indicating a house fire sounded. Because he and a nephew were planning a surprise birthday party that day, Ashley wakened AnnMarie, telling her he would be back before long.

“Usually, a fire is not that serious,” Ashley, “unless you hear Signal 10.”

On his way, the call was upgraded to a Signal 10. Then-Chief Mark Siebert told Ashley that two people were reportedly trapped on the second floor.

With his gear in place, Ashley arrived at the burning home. One of the trapped persons had escaped the house. Ashley ran in to find the other.

“I was breathing like Darth Vader now,” he said. In one of the bedrooms, he found a man fast asleep. He shut the bedroom door to keep the fire out and shook the man.

“He said, what kind of dream is this?” said Ashley. He could not convince the man the fire was real, but the man agreed to go along with the dream and got out of bed.

They had to escape by ladder out the second-story window. As the ambulance arrived to take both the man and Ashley to be checked out medically, the man explained to Ashley that he had experienced difficulty with sleep ever since his wife had died, not long before.

“Wife!” said Ashley. He realized that between the fire, getting checked by EMS, and tying up loose ends, it was now 10 a.m.

He called AnnMarie, who reacted like many a shocked wife.

“She said, are you kidding me? Are you trying to get killed on my birthday?” Ashley said. “We have to give the family members of firefighters a lot of respect, credit, and appreciation, because it is a volunteer service and they let their loved ones go to put their lives in danger.”

Undertaking the duties of fire commissioner will not reduce Ashley’s service as a firefighter.

“I have a passion for it,” he said. “It’s something I love to do.”