Jim was hired in June of 2007. After completing the Fire Academy, Miller was assigned to the A platoon and within a few months took an assignment on Engine 14. Firefighter Miller worked Engine 14 for several years until the city's distressed status closed the company in 2011. For the remainder of the year Jim functioned as a jumper firefighter filling vacancies in other units. In March of 2012, Jim took an assignment on Engine 5 with the "D" platoon. In October of 2019, Jim was promoted to Lieutenant in the Fire Marshal's Office.
*One point of interest to note is that Lieutenant Miller came to us as a retired Allentown Firefighter where he served as a Lieutenant on an engine company.
We asked Jim if he would share some of his experiences with both his time with both Reading and Allentown. This is what he had to say:
Was there anything Apparatus/Tools/Equipment-wise during your career that you felt had a special need, operated quirky, or you felt was a potential problem.
Other than hooking up the horses to the ‘Quick Hitch’? 🐴 LOL. I’ve seen many positive and technological advances since I first entered the fire service Columbus Day (Oct 11) 1976. Change is certain, embrace it.
Knot tying seems to give firefighters the most trouble when time is of the essence, as in setting up rigging/hauling systems for rescue. In addition to continued training, every Probie class should be given sections of rope and webbing on their first day and taught how to tie the knots the RFD uses. The first 10-15 minutes of every morning is spent on practicing their knots. I proposed this to previous academy monitors/instructors, but it must have fallen on deaf ears.
On the AFD we were taught to tie rescue harnesses using ‘hip-high bowlines on a bight’ for legs loops and the ‘Snap bowline’ for around the chest. I used it twice. Once during a training session to retrieve a ‘victim’ from a basement. The second time was on an actual rescue from an elevated water tower on top of Hess’s department store’s parking deck in Allentown. I tied the leg loops and handed them off to another FF that made his way into the tank. Commencing to lift the victim, the chest ‘Snap bowline’ came undone, flipping the victim upside down bouncing off the crossbeams in the tank. I made my way into the tank and tied a knot around his chest to finish the rescue, with men on the angled roof hoisting and me under the victim lifting as I climbed the ladder inside. The morale of the story…KNOW YOUR KNOTS!!!One other thing. Look up “Jet-Axes”. The AFD bomb squad purchased these ‘shaped-charge’ explosives to gain access in special instances. This square one we used in 1976 on a house due for demolition. We also used a round one to gain access to a stubborn fire in a metal stack. Neat things.
Tell us about any calls, incidents, or experiences that offer a lesson learned for other firefighters (especially new ones). I'm sure you could think of many things in your career, but just pick out one or two things that come to mind as being most important.
Always maintain situational awareness. During the initial stages of a ‘working fire’ only a few firefighters will be affecting a rescue or on the knob. There are still plenty of tasks to be performed. Think like an Incident Commander and consider ‘what else needs to be done’.
Three calls come to mind:
First - While working Engine 5 on the D platoon we responded to a second alarm on Hollenbach Street. During the first few minutes of that incident a disabled girl was rescued from the second floor. After the rescue, and further along in the incident, I asked an officer if the basement had been checked. He replied it wasn’t, so I made my way there and located 4 dogs: 2 in cages and 2 running loose in about 4” of water.
Second - I was working for the Fire Marshal's Office as Car #25, assisting in investigation of the double fatality on Schuylkill Avenue. I found a kitten stuck between window sash and storm window. I don’t know how everyone missed it, or maybe didn’t care. My issue is that it was HOURS after the fire was under control. I could hear a cat meowing, it took a few minutes, but I found and freed it and tried handing it off to several officers without success. I guess they were too busy to be bothered. Fortunately I was able to pass the cat along to a neighbor.
Third - While working in Allentown I was on a fire call with a rookie searching for the seat of the fire in a basement. The fire had burned through the kitchen floor above. During the search the firefighter was shining his box-lite around and he replied, "I can't see a thing, where's the fire?" I told him to turn off the light and listen for crackling and try to sense the radiant heat through your mask. We found the fire shortly after, but I thought that was something basic he should have learned in training. This is basic stuff; you can’t go wrong with mastering the basics.
Can you name something from the department that you feel we have lost over the years that might be good to bring back or recall? (procedure, policy, event, ceremony, etc)
Add another 2 (or more) categories to the annual awards ceremony; name a ‘Firefighter of the Year’ and ‘Fire Officer of the Year.’ There are lots of motivated personnel, recognize them, boost morale.
Every firefighter worth their weight in Professionalism should embrace Fire Prevention, without having to be hand-held at presentations by someone from the Fire Marshal's Office. ‘nuff said’
Most important, Leadership, or lack thereof. In my time here, I’m sorry to say, very few chiefs held guys accountable; whether in the cleaning of their station or on the fire grounds. Yes, there are intelligent and capable officers. Yes, there are officers that are good/great IC’s, they just didn’t or wouldn’t hold men accountable. Some of the officers have no personality and will do whatever it takes to get promoted. Over the years this problem has grown and caused low morale and contempt. It would benefit the city and the department if they would offer some Professional Development programs for the officers. I believe there will be positive changes in the foreseeable future with the quality of the up and coming junior officers that would easily do a much better job. The top spot needs turnover, possibly from the outside, to make changes that are sorely needed.
Can you write one thing that you feel would be helpful to pass on to new firefighter that could help them stay healthy & safe throughout their career?
NOOOO!!! Just as there are a myriad of issues that firefighters must deal with, there are myriad things they need to do.
Start with these:
I followed such advice. It got me through almost 44 years in a great profession. At the time of this writing, (my last day July 31, 2020, you might not ‘know’ this, but I’m the oldest guy currently on the RFD (66y 8m 6d); and I was 53y 7m 5d old when I started. Was hoping for a few more years before I called it quits, but…time to move on.
Be Safe Brothers & Sister and make the most of your time. Thank you for the memories, past and present Brothers.
THANK YOU D Platoon for the ‘low-key’ (my request) send off. I’ve had a great time at my 2nd rodeo and will miss you.
686 entries in the News
It is with great sadness and regret we report the passing of Firefighter Mark "Dewey" Kulp. Dewey was hospitalized after contracting Covid-19 on the job, and after multiple days in the hospital he succumbed to complications from the disease. Mark joined with explorer post #290 in 1982 and in 1986 started his volunteer firefighting career with Liberty Fire Company #5 of Reading, PA. During his time at Engine 5, Mark also served as a tender for the Reading Fire Depart...
Our condolences to the family of Retired Firefighter Paul "Gumshoe" LerchFirefighter Lerch was hired in October of 1967 as a driver for the Hampden Fire Company. Lerch, who gained the nickname "Gumshoe" or "Shoes", would eventually be assigned to work on Ambulance 96 in the 1970s after the city closed Engine 10. A short time later, Shoes took an assignment on Ladder 3 with the B platoon. FF Lerch initially worked as the tillerman, before moving to the front-end in 1...
Reading Firefighters once again came to help our neighbors during our annual charity toy-drive campaign. With the pandemic of 2020 causing great difficulties for families across the country, many aspects of life have been disrupted. Locally many people are out of work and are unable to provide for their families at Christmas time. As our annual campaign began we realized that our normal partners would be unable to provide as they have in the past. Miraculously we were able to raise more than $9,...
Congratulations to Firefighter Jason "Spike" Batz on his promotion to Training LieutenantJason was hired by the city on June 18th of 2001. After completing fire training, Batz was assigned as a jumper firefighter on the B platoon. Batz would transfer to the "A" in April of 2011 after working on the "B" for several years. In September of 2014, Spike moved to Engine 9 on the D platoon and worked both positions for more than 5 years. In September of 2019, Batz moved ac...
Congratulations to Paramedic Michael Sninsky on his promotion to Deputy Chief of Emergency Medical Services. Mike was hired in February of 2006 and assigned to Medic 2 on the B platoon. Sninsky would spend seven years on Medic 2 before transferring to Medic 1 in 2013. A year later, Mike would leave the B platoon and take an assignment to Medic 3 on the C platoon. After five years with the C platoon, Sninsky moved to the A platoon on Medic 4 in 2019. Mike has been assigned as Car 6...
Firefighters recently delivered 285 lbs of food to the Helping Harvest Food Bank of Berks County. Helping Harvest works to feed the hungry by acquiring and distributing food to people in need. Helping Harvest collects, purchases, stores, and distributes over seven million pounds of food annually to the more than 300 programs which feed the hungry in Berks and Schuylkill Counties.
Congratulations to Lieutenant Stuart Bansner on his promotion to 1st Deputy Chief on the "D" Platoon. Chief Bansner was hired on February 1st of 1995. After completing the fire academy, he was assigned to the "A" platoon as a jumper firefighter. After working in various positions for 15 years as a jumper, Stu took an assignment to Tower 1 with the "D" platoon on March 6th, 2010. FF Bansner transferred across the floor to the Rescue on August...
It is with great sadness and regret we report the passing of Firefighter James "Corky" Lerch Jr. Corky lost a battle with cancer only after a few short months surrounded by his family and friends. Jim served as a volunteer firefighter with the Neversink Fire Company in Reading before being hired in June of 2001. After completing fire training he was assigned to the D platoon as a jumper. In February of 2002, FF Lerch was assigned to Engine 5. Jim would move to the A plat...
On the evening of October 27th, the A platoon was treated to a home-cooked dinner in appreciation for the services we provide. The dinner was prepared by Ken and Ruth Biles along with their daughter Kimberly Bolles. Kimberly, who is a 4th-grade teacher at Cumru Elementary, brought thank you cards for our firefighters and paramedics created by her students.
Deputy Chiefs James Stoudt and Thomas Rehr recently traveled to Hamburg New York to inspect two Emergency One Typhoon Pumpers. The new apparatus features a 1500 GPM pump, 500-gallon water tank, shortened wheelbase, and lowered hose bed. The units were purchased through First Choice Fire Apparatus. Delivery is expected to take place in November.
After a several month delay due to the pandemic, the 2020 Reading Fire Department Recruit Class officially graduated during a small ceremony held at the Berks County Fire Training Center. After words from Fire Chief William Stoudt Jr, Mayor Eddie Moran, and Academy Staff the recruits were presented with their badges. The class was previously set to graduate during a ceremony in July. Graduation Photos
The Department has recently taken delivery of 3 new Ford Trucks as the first of the new design for officer response vehicles. Two F150's and an F250 were purchased through Maguire Ford and then sent to 911 Rapid Response for outfitting. The trucks provide for a more safe interior by storing PPE in the rear and not inside the passenger compartment. The units are slated for Car 2, Car 600, and the Fire Marshal's Office.
Our condolences to the Mogel family on the passing of Retired Fire Chief Russell Mogel. Russ served as the city's 12th Fire Chief from February 20th, 1971 until June 6th of 1983. The family will receive family and friends at 9:30 AM on Saturday, October 10 at Auman Funeral Home, 390 West Neversink Rd, Reiffton PA 19606. Graveside services with full Fire Department and Military Honors, immediately following the viewing on or around 12:00 PM, and will be held directly across the street at...
ORDER#NameCurrent PositionNew PositionEffective Date2020-25David RottmannJumper "A" platoonEngine 1 Driver "A" platoon9.7.20202020-27Bradley ShanamanEngine 5 Driver "D" platoonLadder 1 Driver "D" platoon9.5.20202020-29Robert SchaefferMedic 2 "D" platoonMedic 2 "A" platoon9.23.20202020-30Timothy RowlandsEngine 3 Driver "B" platoonLadder 3 Tiller "C" platoon9.25.20202020-34Frederick KellenbergerLadder 3 Driver "C&...
For the past 90 days several members of the department have been competing in a weight loss contest affectionately named ShredFest. The goal of the contest was to challenge firefighters to lose weight through exercise and healthy nutrition habits. 46 members entered to lose a total of 158.1 lbs collectively. We hope to continue the contest next year to keep our members healthy. Top 5 ShreddersFF Thomas English - 36.8 lbsFF Jesiah Newsome - 25 lbsFF Kenneth Brooke - 20.6 lbsDeputy Chief Ron ...
The Masano Auto Group recently purchased former Engine 14 from a private sale to be displayed in their massive showroom. The 1984 International/Kovatch served from it’s former quarters on Park Avenue, ironically in the same district the dealership is located. The unit is now wired to have its lights activate when shoppers get near close to it.
686 entries in the News