ASTORIA, Ore. — As family members often do, Emily Herndon began telling a story that slightly embarrassed her mother, Christina. Seated inside a fire truck at the Lewis and Clark Fire Department station, they recalled a particularly memorable medical call.
Emily and her mother, grandfather — Capt. Kevin Miller — and uncle — Adam Miller — are volunteer firefighters. A few weeks ago, they received a pager notification. A medical help button at an elderly woman’s house had been tapped in the middle of the night, so the family responded.
When they arrived on the scene, Kevin, Christina and Emily — unsure if those inside were either unconscious or asleep — banged on the walls and yelled out.
They entered the home and began walking down a hallway, still banging the walls, but were not able to hear anything. Suddenly, they saw a large man come out of a bedroom and race toward them.
“All I see is some dude booking it down the hallway,” said Christina, who joined in telling the story after some pause. “I turn around and my face was like — white.”
Christina and Emily ran out of the house. It turned out the man was simply checking on his mother in another room. The woman was fine; she likely rolled over on the medical help button in her sleep. But the story is a hit at family gatherings.
The Miller-Herndon clan is a large presence in the Lewis and Clark Fire Department, which includes 29 firefighters and two stations. Kevin Miller supervises the firefighters — including his family — at the Logan Road station.
Having multiple generations of one family join a volunteer department is a much more common occurrence on the East Coast than out West, former Astoria Fire Chief Leonard Hansen said. For volunteer fire departments, that line of succession can play a key role in the organization’s health.
“They’re a huge presence,” Hansen said of the Millers. “You don’t see it that much out here.”
Kevin, whose experience includes 25 years with the Astoria Fire Department and a stint at Medix, has been a staple with the Lewis and Clark Fire Department for 45 years. His mark can be seen immediately after walking into the Logan Road station, where his firefighting-related murals, including one of the American flag being raised above ground zero after 9/11, are on the walls.
“As a Christian, I believe we’re all given specialties,” Kevin said. “I believe the Lord made me for emergency services. The desire was there to help people in need.”
While Kevin leads, Christina serves as an emergency medical responder, Adam drives trucks and Emily — a junior at Astoria High School — is a cadet.
Adam, who also provides some medical and engineering services, said he appreciates “just seeing the different things that they’re able to do that I’m not able to do.”
When asked about why they joined, Miller’s children and granddaughter offered a similar sentiment. They all said that, once they became interested in joining, they did not think too long or prod Kevin with questions.
“It’s just natural, feels natural,” Emily said.
As the family sat around the firehouse, Haylee Herndon, Christina’s 12-year-old daughter, wandered past them. When asked if she was interested in becoming a cadet in the future, Haylee immediately nodded her head in approval.
Information from: The Daily Astorian, http://www.dailyastorian.com