Chief Mills was honored in a ceremony on February 27 by MAGLITE® and the NFFF for his leadership in response to a tragic fire that took the lives of two civilians and nearly killed firefighters in his department. Chief Mills personally led the effort to ensure the incident and the lessons learned were shared with local response partners, as well as the fire service at large and worked alongside local government leaders to assist the community in its recovery.
On April 3, 2019, a fast-moving fire erupted in a row of townhouses, quickly trapping two occupants in their home. Firefighters arrived on the scene and encountered “heavy fire conditions in multiple townhouses and occupants trapped.” They immediately initiated a search for the occupants and summoned backup from nearby fire departments, reaching out to units as far away as Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties. During the first few minutes, one townhouse collapsed, killing the two occupants, and a second townhouse collapsed, nearly killing two firefighters conducting a search for the trapped occupants. The blaze was under control approximately two hours later. The fire tragically took the lives of the civilians, destroyed five townhouses and damaged several others. In addition, several firefighters were injured, including the two caught in the collapse.
Some of the lessons learned include: automatic and mutual aid response support is essential for successfully battling large incidents; good training, experience and teamwork are critical to effective operations; proper use of Personal Protective Equipment minimizes injuries and saves firefighter lives; sharing lessons from incidents is an obligation to make all firefighters better.
“It’s always a good day when we can take the time to acknowledge the great work being done by firefighters and fire departments around the country,” said Chief Ronald Siarnicki, Executive Director of the NFFF. “We hope that sharing lessons learned from a tragic fire that took civilian lives, injured numerous firefighters, and destroyed property will have a profound impact on firefighters around the country. Thanks to MAGLITE®, more people will now know about the great efforts by the fire service to keep us all safe.”
“Chief Mills is a highly motivated leader of our department and on a daily basis he is a strong supportive presence within the community”, said Deputy Chief Stephen Stanton. “Mills’ leads through innovative actions, constant dedication, and a genuine care for the personnel of our department and the fire service as a whole. We are forever grateful for the leadership of Chief Mills, and the dedication he has for sharing our lessons learned. We appreciate MAGLITE® and the NFFF for the honor and recognition of our Chief”, Stanton said.
The Firefighter Hero Award program is a joint effort between MAGLITE® and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. The program periodically honors single firefighters, groups or whole departments for extraordinary commitment to upholding excellence in firefighting and related activities.
“Although it is always tragic when people are injured or killed in a horrific fire like this it is important to recognize the heroism of those who battled the blaze and have used it to learn from and prepare for future incidents like Chief Mills,” said Anthony Maglica, Founder and CEO of Mag Instrument, Inc. “This is why we are committed to supporting this program and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. I am very happy to honor these true heroes with this award and a donation to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation in their name which will be permanently displayed on a brick at the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s Walk of Honor®.”
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