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Westerville Fire Chief Brian Miller ’98 serves the Otterbein community after being a student

Westerville Fire Chief Brian Miller ’98 serves the Otterbein community after being a student

This article is from the Spring 2016 edition of Otterbein Towers magazine, out now. Read more articles from the latest edition online.

Brian Miller ’98 wanted to be a firefighter long before he knew what it meant to be a hero.

“Since I was 3 years old, it was all I wanted to do,” he said

As a child, he started collecting antiques related to the profession. He now has an extensive collection that includes two restored fire trucks.

But this is not just a hobby for Miller, who was named fire chief of the Westerville Division of Fire in September 2014. He is the youngest fire chief in central Ohio.

The division’s three fire stations and 100 employees serve approximately 48,000 residents in the city of Westerville and Blendon Township and protect approximately $4 billion worth of property.

Despite his rank and responsibilities, Miller is modest but quick to praise his brothers and sisters in service.

“I am very proud of our fire department and the men and women who work to keep everyone safe,” Miller said. “It is very humbling.”

Miller’s first experience with the Westerville Division of Fire was through its Explorer program when he was 15 years old. The experience also introduced him to nearby Otterbein University, which turned out to be a good fit for his career aspirations.

“Otterbein gave me a global view and the ability to look at problems from all angles,” said Miller.

He graduated from Otterbein in three years with a degree in business. After graduation, he completed an EMT class and professional firefighter class at the Ohio Fire Academy. He began his distinguished career with the Westerville Division of Fire in 1999.

In 2011, he was named the Ohio Firefighter/EMT of the Year by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and received the VFW National Firefighter Award.

As part of the honor, VFW made a donation to Miller’s charity of choice — Westerville Honor Flight. He also has volunteered with Westerville Serving Our Seniors and Westerville Area Resource Ministry.

Most people think of firefighters as heroes when they are battling flames, but what makes Miller an everyday hero is his dedication to fire prevention.

“One of the first fires I responded to happened between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I never realized how tragic a fire could be until I saw a family lose everything at the holidays. Fire prevention and education are so important, because no family or business should have to suffer like that,” he said.

Miller’s fire prevention mission extends to the division’s neighbor — Otterbein.

The Westerville Division of Fire conducts regular inspections; trains resident assistants on fire safety and evacuation procedures; and conducts drills in campus buildings.

“One of the more unique experiences was at the equine facility, when we conducted a drill to evacuate horses,” he said. “The relationship we have with Otterbein is really valuable to both organizations.”

Some of his work on campus brings back memories — from climbing to the top of the Rike Center when responding to a fire alarm to finding his old room in Mayne Hall during an inspection.

What advice does Miller have for the next generation of heroes?

“I try to instill in younger people the importance of working hard and following your dreams. Becoming a firefighter can be a pretty competitive process, but if your heart is in it and you apply yourself, it can happen.”