Son’s death inspires father to become first responder

Dan Miller, an 11-year veteran firefighter-paramedic, became an EMT shortly after his 2-year-old son died of choking

BAYFIELD, Colo. — A veteran firefighter-paramedic recalled how his son’s death inspired him to become a first responder at a going away party held for him at his fire station.

Durango Herald reported that Upper Pine River Fire Protection District firefighter-paramedic Dan Miller, an 11-year veteran of the department, was watching football with his 2-year-old son in 2007 when the toddler began choking.

Miller, who had lifeguard training, tried to revive his unconscious son before responders arrived, but said he now knows he had already gone too long without oxygen. The toddler died 15 minutes after being flown to a hospital.

Miller and his wife, Heather, were driving back home from visiting family after their son’s funeral when he realized he wanted to become an EMT.

“When we were headed back home, we had to pull off the road multiple times to let the waterworks out,” Miller said. “We were just crying, but somewhere in the middle of Tennessee, I pulled off the road, and I said, ‘Heather I want to be an EMT.’”

Miller said he then went to the UPRFPD office to not only thank responders for trying to help his son, but to ask how he could become a first responder himself.

Dan Miller's Final Shift...A Great Run

Captain Dan Miller's last shift we will miss was a great run!

Posted by Upper Pine River Fire Protection on Saturday, November 3, 2018


Former Chief Rich Graeber was able to get Miller into an EMT class, and also offered to pay for Miller’s certification. The first class Miller attended was on how to clear airways for children.

Miller earned his fire certification the next year and said he had found his true calling while coping with the loss of his son.

“Basically, this horrible thing happened to me, and I just wanted to be there to help people when they’re most in need. I want to be there to help them,” he said.

Miller now helps young EMTs with trauma and advocates for mental health for them as they deal with high-stress incidents.

“He’s just a great EMT mentor who became a good, good friend. As an EMT you’re on a lot of calls, and a lot of bad calls, and that’s where that true brotherhood comes out,” EMT Vito Ciccarellis said.

Miller is now leaving the department and moving to Iowa to be closer to family. Chief Bruce Evans said Miller’s journey has made him a great first responder.

“Dan Miller is a guy who came to work every day, and never once worried about himself,” Evans said.

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