Firefighter Steve Miller has been providing emergency response services to Potomac for most of his life.
The 51-year-old, lifelong resident remains humble about his record of emergency service, which includes 31 years as a career firefighter in Washington, DC, and 35 years as a volunteer for the Cabin John Fire Department, where he serves as assistant fire chief. Miller recently received a lifetime service award from Cabin John.
“Every little kid wants to be a fireman,” he said. “Some of us just don't
grow up, I guess.”
Miller’s motivation for countless hours of service is simple.
“It’s very rewarding to work in your community and help your neighbors,” he said. “I get a great deal of satisfaction just from doing that.
“Oftentimes I found that volunteering even more rewarding personally than my career experiences,” he continued. “It’s in my community, and it’s really giving something for nothing.”
CHIEF JIM SEAVEY of Cabin John described Miller as “our man on the front lines” who is “available almost 365/24/7.”
“He’s there all the time and when people ask him how he’s available to respond all the time, his simple answer is, ‘That’s what I choose to do,’” said Seavey.
“Since he grew up in Potomac, [Miller] was able to stay in Potomac. In this day and age for a volunteer firefighter, it’s not very easy to live where you work,” he said. “Many of us who chose this profession can’t afford to live in Potomac or Cabin John. But Steve is in the heart of Potomac, and that is an extremely valuable resource for us. He goes out the door on everything.”
Miller is the only volunteer to head a county rescue team. He has been conducting volunteer water rescues for Cabin John and Montgomery County for 15 years.
“We’re charged with rescues on the Potomac River and any Swift Water flash flooding incidents in Montgomery County,” explained Miller. “We’ve also been statewide on a number of occasions, and went up to Baltimore to evacuate people during Hurricane Isabel. Right now we’re in the process of working with the National Guard so they can use their helicopters to deploy us to areas throughout the state much more rapidly than having to drive there.”
Firefighter Donnie Simmons has known Miller for 20 years through work at Cabin John and the county water rescue team.
“He’s very instrumental in our swift water rescue team, working with the National Guard to prepare for this year’s hurricane season and broad the scope of what our team can do,” he said. “He’s a retired DC firefighter who worked on a fire boat, so his knowledge of the water is pretty extensive.”
FOR THE MILLERS, volunteering at Cabin John is a family affair. Steve’s father served there, his wife assisted with administration, and now one of his children is a firefighter at Cabin John.
“I have two sons, and neither one of them were interested in the fire department, but my daughter is,” said Miller. “She is an active firefighter and an EMT.”
19-year-old Holly Miller grew up admiring her father’s devotion to emergency response services.
“As a firefighter, I believe he’s someone that anyone can look up to,” said Holly. “He’s gone so far as a volunteer in his career.
“Another thing I respect about him is that he may be a deputy chief but he still participates in every aspect of the fire dept, even down to cleaning the firehouse and washing the fire truck.”
Being a firefighter allowed Steve Miller to maximize the time spent with his children.
“When he was a DC firefighter, he worked 24 hours on and 72 hours off, while my mom had an every day nine-to-five job,” said Holly. “So he was able to be at doctor’s appointments and sports events – he was everywhere. Most of my friends’ parents couldn’t be at every basketball game and soccer game.”
Miller admitted that seeing his daughter on the front lines took some getting used to.
“It was an interesting experience the first time I saw her on an incident,” he recalled. “I was talking on the radio, and out of the corner of my eye I noticed someone with fire gear was walking up to my car, but I didn’t pay attention to who it was.
“Then I heard my daughter’s voice … I wasn’t quite ready for that.”
Now the father/daughter team works well together.
“I’m almost like his assistant when we’re going to a call,” said Holly. “He’ll drive and I’ll give him directions…. It’s pretty convenient.
“Every once in a while if he sees me on a call, he’ll joke around with me,” she continued. “Last year on a call together I was on the hose line and he kept making fun of me for having soot on my nose.
“But he’ll always want to introduce me to the other chiefs and tell them I’m his daughter.”