Bob Miller, chief of Fire District #4 for the past 21 years has hung up his helmet and heavy coat. Miller retired on June 30, just shy of 21 years of fighting fires and helping to rescue hundreds of area residents from all types of emergency situations. Miller is 59.
Miller was born in Pittsburgh, Pa., and never saw the countryside until moving to Oregon early n life. His life in the city centered on a baseball game and a hot dog, thanks to an aunt who would occasionally take him and his cousins to work with her, then send them to the ball game to watch the Pirates and their National League opponents play a game. If the game was over early, he would head to the park and watch the pigeons until it was time to go meet his aunt and head for home.
It was a long journey from those boyhood days in Pittsburgh to the countryside of Shady Cove, and many things have changed in the meantime. After graduation from Medford schools, Miller worked in a furniture store in Medford and says he really liked the work. But a friend advised him to seek a job as a fireman so he took the test and volunteered. He spent the next ten years volunteering and was at the Dodge Bridge station when the job came up at Fire District #4. Miller applied and got the job.
During his volunteer time, he trained himself, as much as possible, in the intricacies of budget and working with a budget committee. He believes that is one reason he was hired as chief of District #4.
In that first year (1992) the District responded to 350 calls as opposed to the 1,189 in 2012. Of those calls, fully 80% are medical calls. At the beginning, there was eight paid staff at Fire District #4, now there are just four. The balance of the staff is volunteers, and it is probably due to the leadership of Chief Miller that there are so many who are willing to volunteer. A volunteer support group formed within the District in 2006. These are folks who do a variety of jobs, including cleanup after a fire, both at the scene and at the station. They refill air tanks, participate in fund raisers and open houses and put on the Christmas party that is attended by more children than reside in the area. The volunteers support group is there to help, though they are not actively fighting fires and Miller and the rest of the crew are very thankful to have them.
When asked what it was that he would miss, Miller responded that he will miss the dedicated people and the people whom he has served. It is interesting to note that what he won’t miss is virtually the same thing, except when the outcome is different. He won’t miss the feelings he gets when they get to the scene too late to help someone. But he quickly adds “there are only so many tears you can shed, because another call will come and cut the grieving short.”
Plans for the future are to take some time off, and wait until his grandson is old enough to navigate without diapers. “Then we will take off.” Miller also spends a lot of time with dogs that he trains for what he calls therapy dogs. These are dogs that he trains to be around people, for instance, in nursing homes. He says people respond very positively to dogs coming in as they love unconditionally.
Miller plans to do volunteer work in the community. At present, he is not sure what that will entail. But he is happy to live in Shady Cove and to know the community as intimately as he does. His plans include trips to the east coast in the fall to see more of his family.
The community should be very appreciative of the work the retiring chief has done for the city and for the District. Miller has tried to make the District a better place and most would agree that he has done that in a grand manner.