Honoring a fallen brother

Thursday, September 7, 2006

A group of Putnam County firefighters is living out its belief that honoring a fallen brother or sister is important, regardless of department affiliation or rank.

Firefighters from several local department will head to Brazil on Friday morning to pay tribute to 44-year-old Errett Miller, the Clay County firefighter who was killed Monday afternoon while responding to a fire near the town of Cory.

"The fire service is a brotherhood, and anytime we lose a fellow firefighter it hits us as a whole," Greencastle Fire Chief Bill Newgent said Thursday.

Newgent is also president of the Indiana Fire Chiefs Association and has been in Brazil this week to help plan for the firefighter's funeral.

He said more than 800 firefighters from around the state and nation attended the funeral of a Tippecanoe County firefighter who died earlier this year. He wasn't sure how many of those would turn out for Miller's funeral which is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at the National Guard Armory in Brazil.

"There is a big team of people who come together every time you have someone die in the line of duty like this," Newgent said.

One of the traditional aspects of a firefighter's funeral is the hanging of a large garrison flag between two fire trucks over the procession route. Greencastle's aerial truck will join one from Brazil in displaying the flag on Friday morning.

"Although you may not know the firefighter personally, it still affects you because it's a fellow firefighter," Greencastle Firefighter Jeff Mace said.

Someone who did know Miller personally is Greencastle Firefighter John McPherson.

Also a member of the Reelsville Volunteer Fire Department, McPherson came to know Miller while responding to some of the same fires in the Clay/Putnam County area.

"He was about like any other volunteer firefighter," McPherson said. "He just enjoyed helping people. It's just such a tragedy to lose someone who cared so much about people."

Both McPherson and Newgent remember when Miller came to help Greencastle during the Rector Hall fire at DePauw University a number of years ago.

"They've helped us in the past and we help them," Newgent said. "When we needed help during the Rector fire, they sent guys up to help us."

A 21-year veteran firefighter, Miller died Monday afternoon after the tanker he was driving for the Posey Volunteer Fire Department overturned during an emergency run on Clay County Road 425 West. Police reported that the vehicle rolled over several times and Miller was ejected.

Emergency personnel and bystanders at the scene tried to revive Miller but to no avail. He leaves behind a wife and three children.

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