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Capt. Mike Miller named ‘Firefighter of the Year’ by American Legion
• Command staff recognizes employee for his dedication
Mike Miller
Ceres Fire Captain Mike Miller

Mike Miller, who was hired in 2001 to work for the city of Ceres, was named the Ceres “Firefighter of the Year” at a closed ceremony held last week.

The Ceres Post of the American Legion sponsored the recognition program and ceremony which was delayed from a planned formal ceremony in the spring because of COVID restrictions. Instead of waiting longer, a small ceremony was held at the downtown Ceres Fire Station on Thursday. Attending were members of the American Legion, on-duty personnel, Ceres City Manager Tom Westbrook and Councilman Mike Kline.

Ceres Fire Chief Kevin Wise said Captain Miller sets an exemplary example as a Ceres firefighter.

Nominations came from within the department and evaluated by the command staff. Mike was chosen by his peers for his leadership, hard work ethic, and dedication to the department.

For the last several years, Captain Miller has taken on the responsibility of being the fire department’s Respiratory Protection Program administrator.

“This assignment is one of the most extensive programs we must manage,” said Chief Wise. “He makes sure that our self-contained breathing apparatus are all in good working condition, annual flow testing and cylinder hydro testing are completed, quarterly air sampling is done, annual medical evaluations are completed, and respirator fit testing is performed annually.”

He was instrumental in bringing the Safe Kids program to Stanislaus County by working directly with the staff at Doctors Medical Center. The program has public safety personnel certified to install child restraint devices and car seats safely. The program has grown to hundreds of certified installers teaching parents how to properly install a child’s car seat for safety. Ceres Fire now has five accredited installers and is the only department in the area providing this service to its citizens.

Miller began his career as a seasonal firefighter with the U.S. Forest Service and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, now known as Cal Fire. He earned an associate degree from Modesto Junior College and a bachelor’s degree from Sacramento State University in Fire Administration. In 1994 Miller graduated from the first academy class at the Regional Fire Training Center in Modesto. He followed in his grandfather’s footsteps as a volunteer Firefighter with the Escalon Fire Protection District.

Mike was hired as a Firefighter with the Ceres Fire Department on November 19, 2001. He was promoted to Captain in 2008. 

Miller also took it upon himself to make sure that Ceres Fire’s emergency incident reports are completed and submitted every quarter to the National Fire Incident Reporting System. Data collected from our reports can be used to nationally estimate the need for additional resources or funding provided.

“Being compliant with our NFIRS reporting has assisted us in qualifying for federal grants, such as the SAFER grant the city received, which provided six additional firefighters to our ranks,” said Chief Wise.

Captain Miller also has worked closely with the Ceres Unified School District to provide school supplies and backpacks for children in need. The effort has required a lot of time securing donations and preparing them for distribution.

Aside from his job duties, Miller is president of the Ceres Firefighters Local 3636 union. 

Wise said Miller’s “approach to that position, which at times can be very personally and professionally challenging, has had a direct effect on the productivity and service of the fire department. He has been able to work through many personnel matters and contract related discrepancies with a very high level of professionalism and maturity. That approach helped resolve many issues before they become excessively time-consuming, and no doubt, expensive.”

Recently, Miller has taken on two more significant projects: the patient care reporting program, and a new scheduling software program.

The MEDS program provides the department the chance to accurately document and share our patient care information to those who will continue the care of those patients and provide the city with reimbursement for that care. The program is estimated to triple the amount of money that the city is reimbursed for patient care.

He also helped to come up with a solution to a problem in the new scheduling software “and was willing to implement the fix,” said Wise, requiring many hours of trial and program development.

“Now, Fire staff can quickly and efficiently notify off duty personnel of any coverage needs due to injuries, sick time, vacation needs, or large-scale wildfire responses. This program requires ongoing management and adjustments.”

While all of this was going on, Captain Miller also committed himself to completing the Managing Officer Program through the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Md. This multi-year venture required several trips to Maryland to complete classes and programs to graduate.

“That high level of education,” said Wise, “has undoubtedly impacted how he has managed so many different projects simultaneously and with such great success.”

When he’s not working Mike is busy being a husband, father and grandfather and taking care of horses they own.

“Over the past few years, he has been able to balance all those duties while still managing to work several hundred hours of overtime each year,” Wise noted. “That shows his commitment to his co-workers to make sure they get the day off when they needed it or that someone else was not mandated to work.”