Some people may think being a firefighter is risky business, but when Dodd Miller joined the Dallas Fire Department in the late 1950s, he was looking for job security.

He found it.

The 56-year-old Dallas fire chief is a life-long neighborhood resident and a life-long fireman. He graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1957 and joined the fire department at age 19. He moved to the top rung on the fire ladder in 1976. This July will be his 20th anniversary as chief.

“When you’re 19 years old, you’re not sure what you want. At the time, I was looking for a good job,” Miller says. “When I got into rookie training, I realized it would be exciting.”

“The job is not boring. I like the stimulus and camaraderie of life in the first station.”

Miller worked in fire stations for 10 years before moving into the administrative end of the department.

Once, he received second degree burns to his face from a backdraft in a metal treatment plant. He escaped with no permanent damage, he says, but he has seen friends killed in other fires.

The danger of the job didn’t cross his mind when he joined the fire department, Miller says.

“When you’re 19, danger equates to excitement,” he says. “You don’t know what you’re getting into.”

As fire chief, Miller heads a staff of 1,800 people. He’s responsible for the fire department’s equipment, hiring, training, regulations and discipline. He’s also in charge of the Office of Emergency Preparedness, which acts when there is a tornado, flood, fallen aircraft or other such disaster.

Miller also works with the police department to maintain safe streets when the City hosts special events such as World Cup, and he oversees 911 emergency telephone service operators.

The fire department’s duties continually expand, Miller says.

“The fire department has always done a certain amount of emergency responding,” Miller says. “We were responding to heart attack calls when I came to work.”

Miller only trained six weeks when he joined the department, he says. Today, firefighters undergo a year of fire training and a year of paramedic training.

While with the department, Miller returned to school to study fire technology and earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

As an administrator, most of his days are spent in meetings, he says. He’s on call seven days a week. When he has free time, he jogs around White Rock Lake, reads or golfs, he says.

Miller lives a half-a-mile from the lake with his wife, Wanda. Daughter Camille and her husband, Kirk Jockel, also live in our neighborhood with their daughter, Miller-Ann, a first-grader at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School.

As a child, Miller participated in neighborhood Cub Scout and Boy Scout troops until age 18 and played baritone in Woodrow’s marching band. He was also a member of ROTC.

“I’ve been in a uniform since I was 8 years old,” he says.

Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.