Unsung Hero: Mike Miller, Thiells Fire Department Volunteer Fire Engineer

BY BARRY WARNER

This week the Rockland County Times Unsung Heroes column features Mike Miller of Thiells Fire Dept., a young fire engineer who has earned praise from his superiors for the extra hours and hard work he puts in ensuring the safety and welfare of his community.

“Mike Miller is a dedicated volunteer and spends countless hours at the firehouse,” Chief Jason Parente said.

Under the supervision of the fire captain, the fire engineer performs all of the duties of a firefighter and is responsible for the safe and efficient operation and maintenance of fire vehicles, apparatus and equipment.

“I drive the pumper and ladder fire trucks, do driver training and serve as an interior firefighter. I conduct a drill that involves a hose stretch, hose load and hose re-racking. We have two boats with side-scan radar and a GPS unit to respond to emergencies at the Tappan Zee Bridge, Piermont, Bear Mountain and Stony Point for underwater search and rescue. To be ready, I check the dive tanks, scuba packs and gear bags,” Miller told the Rockland County Times. “Also on my checklist are making sure that the gas-powered generators and ‘Jaws of Life’ tools are on board. I calibrate the multi gas units that detect hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide and oxygen. I use the Cascade Storage System to fill the Scott Bottles for the firemen with breathable air for interior work on the fire and check that Speedy-Dry, Biosolve and rock salt are on the vehicles for accident scenes.”

The driver of the first-arriving fire company has a number of important tasks to accomplish. He must make sure that the apparatus arrives safely at the scene watching for victims, onlookers and other arriving vehicles. Whenever possible, the fire engine should be located in an uphill, upwind position from the accident scene, providing a safety cushion for EMS and rescue units.

The vehicle position should protect rescuers where possible, by shielding traffic lanes and allowing for safe egress from the apparatus for personnel to the accident area. The driver of the pumper truck needs to keep in mind that to avoid overheating or freezing in cold weather, water will need to be re-circulated through the tank during operations when hose lines are filled, but the water is not flowing.

Being the driver of a large emergency vehicle places great responsibility on the shoulders of a fire department driver. Vehicle size and handling, configuration and special conditions under which the vehicle is operated must be considered by the driver. If the apparatus driver does not obey all regulations, the apparatus and crew will not arrive at the scene safely. Emergency Vehicle Response Safety guidelines include:

  1. Intersection approach guidelines.
  2. Maximum response speeds.
  3. Driver and officer responsibilities.
  4. Warning device limitations and usage.
  5. Backing-up guidelines.

Interior firefighters are the most highly trained and have the most in-service requirements. They’re trained and qualified to wear a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). Interior firefighters can advance hose lines into burning structures for rescue of trapped or downed occupants and fire knock-down and extinguishment.

In a side scan, the transmitted energy is formed into the shape of a fan that sweeps the seafloor from directly under the towfish that emanates acoustic waves to a distance of 100 meters. The strength of the return echo is continuously recorded, creating a ‘picture’ of the ocean bottom.

Hydraulic rescue tools, also known as the ‘Jaws of Life’ are used by emergency rescue personnel to assist vehicle extrication of crash victims, as well as other rescues from small spaces. These tools include cutters, spreaders and rams.

A Cascade Storage System is a high pressure gas cylinder used for the refilling of smaller compressed gas cylinders or air cylinders. Each of the large cylinders is filled by a compressor, but the system allows small cylinders to be filled without a compressor.

SCBA systems deliver clean air from an attached cylinder or Scott Bottle that is worn on the back to allow use in oxygen-deficient atmospheres. The cylinder can be heavy and has a limited air supply, so they work best for emergency response situations and other short-tem use.

An auto accident scene can also result in many other hazards, including structural damage and spills of gasoline or other flammable liquid leaks. For gasoline spills, fire departments use ‘Speedy-Dry’ as an absorbent, as the gasoline coats the absorbent particles for ease in ‘picking up’ the liquid.

“Volunteering for the Thiells Fire Department was the best decision I ever made,” Miller said. “My grandfather retired as a member of the FDNY and someday, I hope to follow in his footsteps and be an FDNY firefighter. Here, I’m a member of a whole new family. I enjoy helping people and I have a passion to do the right thing.”

For additional information about volunteering, visit www.thiellsfd.com or call 845-354-2320.