Jim was hired in June of 2007. After completing the Fire Academy, Miller was assigned to the A platoon and within a few months took an assignment on Engine 14. Firefighter Miller worked Engine 14 for several years until the city's distressed status closed the company in 2011. For the remainder of the year Jim functioned as a jumper firefighter filling vacancies in other units. In March of 2012, Jim took an assignment on Engine 5 with the "D" platoon. In October of 2019, Jim was promoted to Lieutenant in the Fire Marshal's Office.
*One point of interest to note is that Lieutenant Miller came to us as a retired Allentown Firefighter where he served as a Lieutenant on an engine company.
We asked Jim if he would share some of his experiences with both his time with both Reading and Allentown. This is what he had to say:
Was there anything Apparatus/Tools/Equipment-wise during your career that you felt had a special need, operated quirky, or you felt was a potential problem.
Other than hooking up the horses to the ‘Quick Hitch’? 🐴 LOL. I’ve seen many positive and technological advances since I first entered the fire service Columbus Day (Oct 11) 1976. Change is certain, embrace it.
Knot tying seems to give firefighters the most trouble when time is of the essence, as in setting up rigging/hauling systems for rescue. In addition to continued training, every Probie class should be given sections of rope and webbing on their first day and taught how to tie the knots the RFD uses. The first 10-15 minutes of every morning is spent on practicing their knots. I proposed this to previous academy monitors/instructors, but it must have fallen on deaf ears.
On the AFD we were taught to tie rescue harnesses using ‘hip-high bowlines on a bight’ for legs loops and the ‘Snap bowline’ for around the chest. I used it twice. Once during a training session to retrieve a ‘victim’ from a basement. The second time was on an actual rescue from an elevated water tower on top of Hess’s department store’s parking deck in Allentown. I tied the leg loops and handed them off to another FF that made his way into the tank. Commencing to lift the victim, the chest ‘Snap bowline’ came undone, flipping the victim upside down bouncing off the crossbeams in the tank. I made my way into the tank and tied a knot around his chest to finish the rescue, with men on the angled roof hoisting and me under the victim lifting as I climbed the ladder inside. The morale of the story…KNOW YOUR KNOTS!!!One other thing. Look up “Jet-Axes”. The AFD bomb squad purchased these ‘shaped-charge’ explosives to gain access in special instances. This square one we used in 1976 on a house due for demolition. We also used a round one to gain access to a stubborn fire in a metal stack. Neat things.
Tell us about any calls, incidents, or experiences that offer a lesson learned for other firefighters (especially new ones). I'm sure you could think of many things in your career, but just pick out one or two things that come to mind as being most important.
Always maintain situational awareness. During the initial stages of a ‘working fire’ only a few firefighters will be affecting a rescue or on the knob. There are still plenty of tasks to be performed. Think like an Incident Commander and consider ‘what else needs to be done’.
Three calls come to mind:
First - While working Engine 5 on the D platoon we responded to a second alarm on Hollenbach Street. During the first few minutes of that incident a disabled girl was rescued from the second floor. After the rescue, and further along in the incident, I asked an officer if the basement had been checked. He replied it wasn’t, so I made my way there and located 4 dogs: 2 in cages and 2 running loose in about 4” of water.
Second - I was working for the Fire Marshal's Office as Car #25, assisting in investigation of the double fatality on Schuylkill Avenue. I found a kitten stuck between window sash and storm window. I don’t know how everyone missed it, or maybe didn’t care. My issue is that it was HOURS after the fire was under control. I could hear a cat meowing, it took a few minutes, but I found and freed it and tried handing it off to several officers without success. I guess they were too busy to be bothered. Fortunately I was able to pass the cat along to a neighbor.
Third - While working in Allentown I was on a fire call with a rookie searching for the seat of the fire in a basement. The fire had burned through the kitchen floor above. During the search the firefighter was shining his box-lite around and he replied, "I can't see a thing, where's the fire?" I told him to turn off the light and listen for crackling and try to sense the radiant heat through your mask. We found the fire shortly after, but I thought that was something basic he should have learned in training. This is basic stuff; you can’t go wrong with mastering the basics.
Can you name something from the department that you feel we have lost over the years that might be good to bring back or recall? (procedure, policy, event, ceremony, etc)
Add another 2 (or more) categories to the annual awards ceremony; name a ‘Firefighter of the Year’ and ‘Fire Officer of the Year.’ There are lots of motivated personnel, recognize them, boost morale.
Every firefighter worth their weight in Professionalism should embrace Fire Prevention, without having to be hand-held at presentations by someone from the Fire Marshal's Office. ‘nuff said’
Most important, Leadership, or lack thereof. In my time here, I’m sorry to say, very few chiefs held guys accountable; whether in the cleaning of their station or on the fire grounds. Yes, there are intelligent and capable officers. Yes, there are officers that are good/great IC’s, they just didn’t or wouldn’t hold men accountable. Some of the officers have no personality and will do whatever it takes to get promoted. Over the years this problem has grown and caused low morale and contempt. It would benefit the city and the department if they would offer some Professional Development programs for the officers. I believe there will be positive changes in the foreseeable future with the quality of the up and coming junior officers that would easily do a much better job. The top spot needs turnover, possibly from the outside, to make changes that are sorely needed.
Can you write one thing that you feel would be helpful to pass on to new firefighter that could help them stay healthy & safe throughout their career?
NOOOO!!! Just as there are a myriad of issues that firefighters must deal with, there are myriad things they need to do.
Start with these:
I followed such advice. It got me through almost 44 years in a great profession. At the time of this writing, (my last day July 31, 2020, you might not ‘know’ this, but I’m the oldest guy currently on the RFD (66y 8m 6d); and I was 53y 7m 5d old when I started. Was hoping for a few more years before I called it quits, but…time to move on.
Be Safe Brothers & Sister and make the most of your time. Thank you for the memories, past and present Brothers.
THANK YOU D Platoon for the ‘low-key’ (my request) send off. I’ve had a great time at my 2nd rodeo and will miss you.
666 entries in the News
Members of the department gathered today with local leaders and members of the community to remember and reflect on the tragic events of 9/11. While it is hard to fathom the worst attack on American soil occurred 19 years ago we must keep the memory of those involved forever in our hearts and minds. Ceremony Photos
Congratulations to Firefighter Steven Johnson on his retirement after 40 years of service to the City of Reading. Following in his father's footsteps a young Steven Johnson joined Explorer Post 290 in 1980. Steven then joined the Junior Fire Company #2 and the Liberty's Scuba Team as a volunteer member in 1984. Steve was then hired in April of 1994. After completing the fire academy FF Johnson was assigned to the A platoon. On March 22nd of 1995, Steve was assigned to Engi...
Our condolences to the family of Alber Ash Sr. on his recent passing. Al retired from Engine 9 in December of 1993. ViewingMonday, August 31st 6 pm to 9 pmBean Funeral Home, 1605 Rockland Street Funeral Tuesday, September 1st10 am to 11 am Bean Funeral Home, 1605 Rockland Streetservices to follow with burial at Charles Evans Cemetary
Congratulations to Firefighter Mark George on 30 years of service to the city.Mark was hired on June 25th, 1990. After completing fire training he was assigned to the "D" platoon as a jumper firefighter. In August of 1991, Firefighter George took an assignment on Engine 12. In May of 1994, the city added an additional firefighter to all of the engine companies after eliminating Engines 2, 12, and Ladder 2. With his company closing, FF George was transferred to Engine 14. Mark woul...
Congratulations to Lieutenant James Miller on his retirement after serving 13 years with the city. Jim was hired in June of 2007. After completing the Fire Academy, Miller was assigned to the A platoon and within a few months took an assignment on Engine 14. Firefighter Miller worked Engine 14 for several years until the city's distressed status closed the company in 2011. For the remainder of the year Jim functioned as a jumper firefighter filling vacancies in...
Congratulations to Deputy Chief Gary Mogel on retiring after 38 years of service to the city. Gary served as a volunteer firefighter with the Neversink Fire Company #3 beginning in 1982 following in the footsteps of his Father, Grandfather, and Uncles. Gary was then hired by the city on June 30th of 1988. After completing fire training, he was placed on the C platoon as a jumper firefighter. Firefighter Mogel would work on the "C" platoon until November of 199...
The recruits assigned to the Fire Academy Class have been now been assigned to platoons for duty. Unfortunately, we were not able to hold formal graduation due to the pandemic. Congratulations Probies!NAMEPlatoon AssignmentEffective DateZachary ZerbeJumper, A platoon7.21.2020Kieran DolanJumper, B platoon7.20.2020Christopher TurnerJumper, B Platoon7.20.2020Patrick WallsJumper, B Platoon7.20.2020Edward YescavageMedic 1, B Platoon7.20.2020Hunter McMullen Jumper, C Platoon7.23.2020Ryan McCloske...
Congratulations to Firefighter Thomas Sheetz on his retirement after serving more than 23 years. FF Sheetz was hired in June of 1997. After completing the fire academy, Sheetz was assigned to Engine 5 on the A platoon. Sheetz spent the next several years on the engine under the tutelage of FF Bruce Briner. Tom would next transfer to the B platoon in October of 2008 when he took an assignment on Engine 1. FF Sheetz moved back to the A platoon in January of 2011 when he accepted a p...
Congratulations to Firefighter Andrew Kutz on his retirement after more than 26 years of serviceAndrew Kutz was hired in April of 1994. After completing the fire academy, Kutz was assigned to the B platoon as a Jumper Firefighter. Over the next 14 years, Andrew would work in various positions in the department with the platoon. In November of 2010, FF Kutz was assigned to Tower 1 on the B first as the firefighter/bucketman and then the driver in February of 2018. Andrew also served in ...
Local 1803 Union firefighters setup another bread handout for the citizens of Reading. Members have now set up at multiple locations over the city to create better access to those in need. Today’s location was in Glenside near the park. Members were also giving out fire helmets to the children and Lt Zulick had Gracie the ATF K-9 there as well. We had another great turnout today! The remaining bread was donated to Centro Hispano, the Opportunity House, and the Hope...
Around the hours of 2315, one of our firehouses was struck by gun fire. Multiple rounds were fired in the area, striking a moving vehicle, the parking authority building across the street, as well as sending a bullet through the window of our Lieutenant’s office at the Plum St and Franklin St firehouse. The on duty Lieutenant was working in the office when the bullet came into the building. Thankfully no firemen were injured. One civilian shooting victim went to the hos...
Tuesday, firefighters from our Union Local set up and handed out bread to residents in our city. We were able to hand out every loaf! Thank you to our community residents for accepting and we hope it will help out in some way. Thank you to Pepperidge Farms and Reamstown Fire Company for working with our Local.
The Reading Fire Department Recruit Academy is moving closer to graduation after a challenging few months. COVID-19 restrictions have impacted the academy at every level. The class traveled to the York County Fire School this week to complete live-fire training. In the next two weeks, the recruits will complete several certification tests at the Harrisburg Area Community College. The group should be released to their platoons within the next two weeks for on-the-job training. Fire Acad...
As the dangers and lethality of COVID-19 became apparent, so did the lack of proper PPE. Many public safety groups began to put out the call for assistance from any outlet they could. While some places were unable to help, Nativity BVM of Pottsville was more than willing to help the Reading Fire Dept. It has been over 20 years since RFD’s very own Michael J. Sninsky'96 has been in the building, but regardless the high school immediately resp...
With the country in the midst of a battle with the COVID-19 pandemic many people have adjusted to life with distance restrictions, the wearing of face masks, and staying at home as much as possible. Many businesses have been closed or adjusted operations to comply with safety guidelines. While things have changed it's important to remember that health care workers, firefighters, paramedics, and police officers are still going to work to keep you safe. Members of the Reading Fire De...
We offer our condolences on the passing of Retired Firefighter Zenith "Skip" LudwigSkip retired from Rescue 1 on the "B" platoon in June of 2000 after serving for 41 years as both a career & volunteer firefighter. Sevices will be held on Wednesday May 27th at the Bean Funeral Home, 2825 Penn Avenue, Sinking Spring. Viewing from 1015 to 1115 with a procession to Forrest Hills Cemetary in Exeter.
666 entries in the News