- Associated Press - Saturday, March 4, 2017

ALDA, Neb. (AP) - Firefighting seems to run in the Miles family blood.

The Miles family has a total of 80 years on the Alda Volunteer Fire Department.

Ron Miles and his three children, Colt Miles, Chance Miles and Chanda Bowers, are on the department along with Ron’s son-in-law, Blake Bowers. Ron was the fire chief on and off for 16 years and recently passed that role to Colt.

The family tradition started before Ron, though. He joined thanks to his father-in-law, Gene Bartlett, The Grand Island Independent (https://bit.ly/2mLu17t ) reported.

Janet, Ron’s wife, said her dad joined the Alda department in the 1970s. When she and Ron moved from Wood River to Alda in 1984, Gene persuaded Ron to join the department, too. Ron joined in 1986, and it snowballed from there.

“I pretty much lived at the fire hall,” Colt said about growing up around firefighting.

From seeing his dad, Ron, enjoy volunteering, Colt said his interest sparked. Colt joined right out of high school in 2001. Chance, Chanda and Blake followed as juniors in high school, joining in 2002, 2005 and 2007.

Colt is the fire chief, Chance is the assistant chief and vice president, Ron is a captain, Chanda is the secretary, and Blake is a captain and the training officer. Of the 20 people on the Alda department, the Miles family provides one-fourth of the team and the only woman. At one time, Ron said, 11 people were on the department, so his family made up about half of the team.

But just because other family members were on the department doesn’t mean each member didn’t choose to be there. Each member has other professions, as the department only has volunteers.

“We get nothing but the satisfaction of helping people out,” Colt said.

Helping others, especially in their beloved hometown of Alda, keeps the Mileses going. Even when Colt and Chance moved to Doniphan for a few years, they stayed on the Alda department. Eventually, they moved back.

“It’s a little department, and we grew up in Alda, so it means a lot to us,” Chance said.

What they do isn’t easy.

“We have a lot of people that think it’s a free-for-all and that it’s going to be easy, but it takes a lot,” Chanda said.

The department doesn’t just help with fires. Members also volunteer to help the town in whatever ways they can, such as cleaning up branches after the ice storm.

Because they don’t live at the fire station, the Miles family and other firefighters have to drop everything when they get a call. The wives and families help out a lot, too, by getting water and making sure everything is kept up at the station when firefighters go on a call.

One year, Chance and his wife, Becky, were Christmas shopping at Conestoga Mall in Grand Island. The pager went off, and they literally ran out of the mall. Chance and Becky said, in good humor, that they probably looked odd or suspicious to others. They were just doing their job and trying to help people.

A few years ago, Ron and Janet were in Walmart when the pager went off. Ron ran out and Janet was left in the dust at Walmart.

“It takes dedication no matter what you’re doing,” Blake said. “If your tone goes off, you drop what you’re doing.”

The department members attend monthly meetings, set up and run annual fundraisers and attend the three-day Fire School each May at Fonner Park. The department’s next fundraiser is a pancake feed from 7 a.m. to noon March 26 at the community center.

Being on the Fire Department can be tough, both for the firefighters and their families. Every time the Mileses are needed on a call, whether it be in Alda or helping other area departments, the families worry.

Janet said she, Chanda, Becky and Colt’s wife, Angela, listen to the scanners for codes to ensure that their husbands made it to the scene safely.

“We constantly fear that our husbands are not going to come home,” Chanda said.

Ron has had some close calls. Once when Janet and Ron were at Menards, the pager went off for an engulfed structure fire for a house on Venus Street: Ron and Janet’s address.

“I have to go!” Ron said.

Luckily, the fire turned out to be the wood-burning stove, so everything was OK.

“But think about what was going through his mind,” Janet said of Ron.

While on a grass fire call, Ron and another firefighter got trapped in the fire when their truck got stuck in the mud. Both men jumped in the firetruck as the flames surrounded them. They called for help and were able to get out.

“The fire was moving so fast,” Ron said.

The family said they leave everything at the station, especially when working with family. Janet said she always tells her family not to let the department come between them. Banter and competition may ignite between the firefighter family, but it never burns.

“We may have a disagreement with one thing,” Blake said. “But the pager goes off, and it all goes out the window,” Chance said.

But being a firefighter, Colt said, “You don’t think about the bad stuff that’s going to happen. You think about getting there and helping others.”


Information from: The Grand Island Independent, https://www.theindependent.com

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