Gilbert A. Cole, 80, who retired as a D.C. Fire Department battalion chief in 1950, died of cancer Monday at the Collingswood nursing home in Rockville.

He was a member of the department for 29 years, the last three as a battalion chief. He commanded the 2nd, 7th, and 5th battalions before retiring for reasons of health.

His years with the department included an award for heroism for being one of the first on the scene during the Knickerbocker Theater fire in 1922.Chief Cole also was a member of the department's first rescue wagon, which eventually became the Rescue Squad.

Chief Cole was a native of Washington and attended McKinley High School. He served with the Army in France as an ambulance driver during World War I.

His wife of 58 years, the former Hazel Altmann, died in 1978.

Survivors include two sons, Gilbert A. Jr., of Silver Spring, and Nelson A., of Olney; a daughter, Mae Parsons of Rockville; a brother, Ira E., of St. Petersburg, Fla.; a sister, Ida C. Pifer of Charles Town, W.Va.; 13 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the American Cancer society.