Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Safety Harbor honors an ex-firefighter for his bravery at fire in his home

Gene Miller describes what he did to put out the New Year’s Eve fire in his home and get his family out safely.


Gene Miller describes what he did to put out the New Year’s Eve fire in his home and get his family out safely.

SAFETY HARBOR — It was 11:45 p.m. on New Year's Eve, just 15 minutes until the ball — and Gene Miller's stomach — dropped.

While his family slept inside his house, he was outside chatting with friends and watching fireworks someone was setting off at a neighbor's party.

Wanting to change his shoes and finish listening to the top 20 jazz countdown on WSJT 94.1, Miller, 50, walked through the garage and smelled a familiar scent: smoke. Quickly, the former Safety Harbor firefighter made his way to his room and was shocked to see that his radio was on fire.

He grabbed a comforter that also was ablaze and started beating at the flames, which were burning the carpet and licking the ceiling.

Remembering his firefighting training, he put the blaze out in about three minutes and started "running and yelling'' for his father Willie Bell, 77, his mother Sue Miller, 71, and his niece, Betty Union, 31, to wake up.

"The smoke detector was going off and they slept through it,'' Miller said. "I was banging on the door. I said get out.''

Once they realized what was going on, Miller said his parents were "freaking out'' and his niece, who is mentally challenged, was confused and wandering around.

Within minutes, the Safety Harbor Fire Department was there.

"He really was a (hero),'' said fire Chief Jay Stout. "He went in and got them out. A few more minutes and it would have flashed out and blown the windows out.''

At the Safety Harbor City Commission meeting Tuesday night, Miller was honored for his bravery.

It turns out that the fire was caused when wires connected to the radio overheated and set the would-be disaster in motion.

Although he suffered burns on his legs, feet and arms, which he calls his battle scars, Miller, an unemployed salesman, is more distressed about losing his and his family's belongings.

"We lost mini blinds, clothes, blankets,'' he said. "We lost a lot.''

Eileen Schulte can be reached at or (727) 445-4153.

Safety Harbor honors an ex-firefighter for his bravery at fire in his home 01/21/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 21, 2009 11:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Deputies find unidentified decomposing body in Dunedin canal

    Public Safety

    DUNEDIN — Pinellas County sheriff's deputies found an unidentified male body floating in a Dunedin canal Monday afternoon, the Sheriff's Office said.

  2. Rays acquire slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria from Marlins

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Chaim Bloom said the Rays weren't necessarily in the market for a shortstop. The team has a number of those. But when the Marlins recently began shopping Adeiny Hechavarria, well, that was too much to pass up.

    Adeiny Hechavarria has emerged as one of baseball’s top defensive shortstops in the past three seasons with the Marlins.
  3. Lightning journal: Forward Yanni Gourde agrees to two-year deal

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Just three years ago, Yanni Gourde was fighting to stay in pro hockey.

    Tampa Bay Lightning center Yanni Gourde celebrates after scoring against the Florida Panthers during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, March 11, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA108
  4. Fennelly: About time Dave Andreychuk makes Hockey Hall of Fame

    Lightning Strikes

    It's Andy's time.

    And it's about time.

    Former Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk has been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame. He had been eligible since 2009, a ridiculously long wait for someone who scored 640 goals, including a record 274 on the power play.

    LEFT: Dave Andreychuk talks at the podium as he is honored with a statue in front of the now-Amalie Arena.
  5. British government says 75 out of 75 buildings failed fire safety tests


    LONDON — Britain on Monday confronted a rapidly growing fire safety crisis after tests of the exterior cladding on dozens of public housing towers revealed a 100 percent failure rate, raising fears that this month's deadly inferno in London could be repeated elsewhere.

    Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali, presents his first Chrono-Hologram in Paris, France, in 1973. A Spanish judge on Monday June 26, 2017, has ordered the remains of artist Salvador Dali to be exhumed following a paternity suit by a woman named by Europa Press agency as Pilar Abel, 61 from the nearby city of Girona. Dali, considered one of the fathers of surrealism in art, died in 1989 and is buried in his museum in the northeastern town of Figueres. [Associated Press]