Like many young boys, Knightdale Fire Lt. Chris Miller always dreamed of fighting fires. But for Miller, the career vision was more than a daydream – it became a reality and a heritage that he continued as a third generation firefighter.
Miller was named Knightdale’s 2014 Firefighter of the Year at the Knightdale council meeting March 2.
Among other factors, Miller was chosen by department leadership for spearheading the child seat safety program and the diversion program in the town, which works with residents who have been cited for child safety seat violations to reduce their penalties.
In fall 2014, he was also recognized by Wake County Public School System with their School to Volunteer award due to launching the Knightdale High School’s public safety academy, which started last school year. Within the academy, Miller advises various career paths students can take to serve in a fire department.
Born and raised in Knightdale, Miller attended East Wake High School and continued the firefighting legacy that his grandfather and father began. He started his career by volunteering with the Knightdale department in 2002, back when the station was a mere construction trailer and three full-time staff.
In 2004, he was hired full-time by the Cary Fire Department, and continued to volunteer in Knightdale. Three years ago, he transitioned to the Knightdale Fire Department.
Since then, he’s seen the department burgeon into a freestanding station and nine employees. The calls have increased, too, as the town expands.
Miller’s commitment to firefighting extends beyond the obvious.
“It’s a lot to do with the heritage of it and it’s a lot to do with the simple fact of what we do – we drive big red trucks, we get to go in and fight fires,” he said. “But when you really think about it, it has a lot to do with helping the public and the citizens.”
One of Miller’s strongest memories was a July 4 about 10 years ago, when he helped fight a fire at an elderly lady’s home. She approached the emergency crews, slightly burnt and coughing, and was cared for by the EMS. Later, Miller learned that she didn’t survive and his first fatality wore on him for a while.
Yet the positive stories keep him working. In 2013, he assisted a family in properly installing a car seat. The following week, the wife was in a severe rollover accident, and although she spent days in the intensive care unit, the baby was uninjured.
“We wear many hats,” Miller said, referring to the aftercare and interactions with family members and victims. “When you respond to someone who’s having the worst day of their life, if we can change that just a little bit, we’ve accomplished our mission.”
Miller and his wife have four young boys who enjoy baseball, karate, hunting and fishing together. For them, Knightdale is home.
“These are my roots, this is my home,” he said. “I’m helping the people I was raised around.”