Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Fire Chief Russell Miller arrived in April 2012 to assume the duties and responsibilities of his position at the installation’s fire station. No stranger to any fire department, Miller has been a part of engines, firefighting equipment and the hard working personnel who provide fire safety to the public since his youth.
A native Philadelphian, Miller joined his local fire department as a volunteer fire fighter at age 14. “My father was also in the fire department – but he was fire police, not operations,” explained Miller. As a kid, Miller always liked hanging around the suburban station in his hometown.
“I stayed on as a volunteer fire fighter until I left the area in 1997,” he said. “Whenever I go back home, I can still ride with the firefighters on the truck.” Miller and his wife relocated to Virginia Beach, Va., about 15 years ago where they still live. He works on JBM-HH during the work week as a “geographical bachelor,” returning home to his wife and daughter each weekend.
In June, 2008, Miller departed his job at Navy Safety Center, Naval Base Norfolk, Va., after working in government service as the deputy program manager, and then was promoted as program manager for the national fire incident reporting system. He also went back in the firefighting field, first working at Lakehurst, N.J., then [Fleet Combat Training Center Atlantic] Dam Neck, Va.
At the request of the fire chief at Fort Belvoir, Miller relocated to the National Capital Region to work in 2008. “I went from assistant chief of training to deputy chief [of training] there,” he said.
Miller finds his work interesting, serving for the first time as the fire chief within the Directorate of Emergency Services. “We work with the various components, including the Fort McNair portion of the joint base as well as Arlington National Cemetery and the Pentagon,” he said.
“It was a working process to get a fire station started at the Pentagon,” the fire chief explained. “They’re in the construction phase there, meaning there is a [contract] award and a date to break ground. I also want to start a Fort McNair fire station.”
Miller said he’s met with the Washington, D.C., fire chief, his operations assistant and other key players on the scene. “They have no problem with us building a fire station there — that’s a positive.” Miller said there is a temporary facility at Bldg. 30 on McNair. “I got a fire truck to use from Fort Belvoir. We put some equipment on it and I’m working with the Directorate of Public Works [on JBM-HH] to complete this project,” he added.
The JBM-HH fire chief is also excited about getting a special events trailer in usable condition. “I was over at ANC on Memorial Day. It was amazing just how many people needed to be treated for heat-related injuries,” he said. “We can use this trailer for triage at all special events, and then hand the patient off to the Arlington County Fire Department for transport if necessary.”
Miller bragged about his firefighters, who he said worked until two in the morning recently to get the trailer cleaned and up to standards for operational use. “I’m keeping them busy,” he said with a broad smile. He also gave credit to the ACFD, who has loaned the JBM-HH fire department a utility vehicle to transport the trailer to special events. “We should have the vehicle needed to transport the trailer for use by the end of this fiscal year.”
Since he focuses a lot on fire prevention, Miller is busy developing an official JBM-HH fire regulation, similar to one he authored for use on Fort Belvoir. “This is a pet project of mine,” he said. “Part of future plans [at the JBM-HH fire station] also includes expanding the apparatus bay. “They’re very short and completely undersized by today’s standards. We want to pick up surplus automatic external defibrillators from the Washington Headquarters Services to use at all the facilities within JBM-HH,” said Miller. Also we want a consolidated dispatch here — basically we’d have fire, police and emergency medical all dispatched out of an area which is part of the build-out for this building.”
Miller manages 31 firefighters at the joint base fire station; however, he said the staffing document from IMCOM headquarters says the fully staffed fire house is for 51 personnel. “The firefighters here work a 48/72 schedule, so they work two days on and get three days off,” he said.
What the fire chief likes best about working in the NCR and serving as fire chief to the JBM-HH community is, “I appreciate getting to see things most don’t get to see. I have access to ANC, the Pentagon – and there are high level challenges. What other fire chief can say they have responsibility for the Pentagon?” asked Miller.
“My focus is to ensure we don’t lose anything and to take everything to its fullest capability here,” he stressed. “I didn’t change anything my first two months here, to fully understand why the firefighters did things the way they did. Now, I can slowly make some changes. We plan to stay busy.”