In the late 1970s, Allen’s population was around 2,000. The old high school housed middle schoolers and high schoolers alike, and the scent of freshly baked brownies wafting through the halls lured hungry teens towards the home economics classroom. Dee Miller was one of them.
But brownies weren’t the only lure for Dee. When a buddy told him about the Teenage Auxiliary, a program that allowed teenagers to volunteer at one of the town’s two fire stations, Dee signed up. He was all of 16.
At the time, the only paid employee was a part-time fire chief. Everyone else was strictly volunteers.
After graduation and a stint at Collin College, Dee joined the Allen Parks and Recreation department but continued as a volunteer firefighter. When a notice went out that the fire department would be hiring its first paid firefighters in 1982, Dee was the second person hired. Dee makes it clear he would have been first, but was second only because “a good friend of mine, Captain Paul Duckworth (retired now), elbowed me out of the way to get into the chief’s office.”
Listening to Dee talk about his 40+ years with the Allen Fire Department, nearly every story includes some phrase like this. Dee doesn’t talk about coworkers or bosses. His stories are about a buddy. A good friend. A brother. His crew. His family.
During Dee’s tenure, Allen’s population grew from a couple of thousand to well over 100,000. As it grew, so did the fire department. Three fire stations were added over the years. Dee worked at every single one.
Dee has dedicated his life to helping others. He’s delivered babies. Put out countless fires. Trained community members through the Citizen Emergency Response Team (CERT). Saved more than a few lives.
When I ask him about a memory that stands out to him, I’m expecting an epic tale of a raging fire or something involving a kitten in a tree, but the story Dee tells me happened off the clock.
Taking his son to school one day, a man on a walk dropped dead outside the school. Dee started CPR and brought the man back; he saved his life. Telling the story, Dee mentions a surprising detail: “I was supposed to be working that day. So tell me someone didn’t bring me there.”
Dee’s full of stories. Everything from firehouse pranks involving shaving cream on phone receivers to delicious meals to the day his crew helped him propose to his wife, Melissa.
Reflecting on his time with the Allen Fire Department, Dee recalls all that he and his crew went through together: “You go through so many emotions when you work with a group of people for such a long time. You see the birth of children. You see the loss of parents. You see the loss of spouses. Being there for them is what will stick with me.”
Dee retired in 2020, having served our community for 44 years. These days, he can be found at work with his wife, Melissa Miller, of Farmers Insurance. He may not have a hose in hand, but Dee’s still doing what he does best – helping others. He spends his days by Melissa’s side, promoting her agency and connecting with members of our community.
Dee’s love for Allen runs deep. He’s helped his neighbors in emergencies, and encourages everyone to “learn basic maintenance for your house – how to turn your water, electricity, and gas off.” Dee remembers the days when everyone knew their neighbors, and hopes we can return to that level of connection with one another.