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December 4, 2010

Firefighter Mary Miller

Smokey the Bear and Mary Miller – they have both been around for a long time and they have both had a significant impact on fires.  Smokey the Bear started his career in 1944 and Mary started hers in 1972.  Smokey’s work was passed on to others, but Mary is still answering the alarm after 38 years.

The fire service was much different back when Mary joined the Stafford County and City of Hudson Fire Departments.  First of all the only fire trucks they had were a couple of Forestry hand-me-downs – a jeep and a 6×6 truck.

Mary’s husband preceded her as one of the first firefighters on the Stafford County/Hudson department.  The departments were started after a house fire.  Since there was no fire department in the area, assistance had to come from the City of Stafford.  By the time they arrived it was too late.  

The first Stafford County firefighter’s protective gear couldn’t really be called “protective.”  Mary described the coats as not much more than rain coats.  They had to take the coats to Gorman Tarps in Great Bend to have reflective striping sewed on.  Footwear consisted of rubber three-quarter hip boots. And, the “Red Ball” gloves were good at keeping the firefighter’s hand’s dry, but if anything they caused a build-up of heat.      

Mary’s husband might have started his career before hers, but in 1979 Mary became his boss. Mary was chosen Fire Chief of Stafford County/Hudson.  Resources were tough to be had back in the early days.  Mary recalled a commissioner telling her, “Your firefighters don’t need roofs on the cabs of their fire trucks.”

The most memorable fire for Mary was one that she called “Dirty Tuesday.”  A wiring spark from an oil rig was attributed as the cause of the fire.  Wind gusts that day reached into the 60mph range.  The combination of dust and smoke made it impossible to see your hand in front of your face.  Mary said, “I think the wind was blowing so hard that the sand actually helped put out the fire.”

Mary drives a white truck and is famous for backing a fire truck over Assistant Chief Howard Potter’s personal truck.   When asked for a famous Mary quote, she said; “Always stay in the black, and don’t stand behind the white truck. 

Mary stands just about five feet tall and when you see the yellow/green Hudson tender coming down the road, about all you see is the top of Mary’s head.  It will be a sad day when Mary finally hangs up her helmet for good. 

“Thanks for everything you do Mary.  You are appreciated.”

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