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News / Clark County News

Fire chief: Pedestrian killed was off-duty Vancouver firefighter

By Emily Gillespie, Columbian Breaking News Reporter, and
Andy Matarrese, Columbian environment and transportation reporter
Published: April 1, 2016, 3:30pm
2 Photos
A pedestrian has died after a vehicle crashed into him Thursday night in Vancouver's Fircrest neighborhood.
A pedestrian has died after a vehicle crashed into him Thursday night in Vancouver's Fircrest neighborhood. (Courtesy of Mike Striker) Photo Gallery

An off-duty firefighter died Thursday night after he was struck by a vehicle in Vancouver’s Fircrest neighborhood, Vancouver Fire Department Chief Joe Molina said.

Andrew Miller, 27, was walking near his home in the 500 block of Northeast 112th Avenue when he was struck by a northbound vehicle at about 10:30 p.m., fire and police officials said.

He was treated at the scene by two crews from the Vancouver Fire Department and paramedics with AMR before being transported to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center with life-threatening injuries, according to the fire agency. He died from those injuries around midnight Thursday, fire officials said.

“Anytime we lose a member of the Vancouver Fire Department family, it’s hard on all of us,” Molina said. “Especially because the nature of our job, we’re the ones who respond to the call. It’s very difficult for the on-duty crews.”

Miller grew up in Spokane and went to Spokane Community College to study fire science and general studies before becoming a resident firefighter at Spokane County Fire District 10, according to the fire agency. He began working as a member of the Vancouver Fire Department in September 2011.

Vancouver Fire Department spokesman Joe Spatz said that when Vancouver was in the process of hiring him, Miller’s chief at Spokane called him one of the department’s best firefighters.

In Vancouver, Miller had been bouncing between stations in the department, but recently was assigned to Station 9 for the remainder of the year following another firefighter’s retirement.

“It’s a big deal for a young firefighter to get even a temporary spot,” Spatz said. “It’s very sad that he doesn’t get to complete that year there.”

Miller was an EMT, and Spatz said he worked well with paramedics while on medical calls, was an aggressive firefighter, and had the kind of attention to detail a good firefighter needs.

Not long ago, Miller rode with Spatz to a small kitchen fire in an apartment.

Spatz was captain on the call, so he was so focused on the big picture concerns he forgot to ready his oxygen mask.

“When I got off the apparatus, and I’m talking on the radio, and I’m ready to mask up, it’s not there,” Spatz said. “I turn around to go back to the engine to get it, and Andrew not only had his full complement of tools to fight fire with, he was holding my SCBA mask in his hands, like, ‘Here you go, Captain.’”

Peer support groups were made available to employees, Molina said, and the firefighters union, Local 452, is working with the family to make sure they receive all the information and resources that they can provide.

Spatz said the department’s honor guard is helping the family with memorial arrangements.

“I don’t think you ever get used to it. Each time we have an event like this, you know, it’s challenging,” Spatz said.

The initial investigation into the crash shows that a vehicle driven by a 25-year-old Vancouver man struck Miller, who was in the roadway at the time of the crash, police said. The driver remained on scene and cooperated with investigators. Alcohol and speed do not appear to be factors in the crash, police said.

No arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing. Any witnesses who haven’t talked to police are encouraged to call the Vancouver Police Department’s west precinct at 360-487-7355 and ask for the traffic unit.

“This is a very sad day for the city,” Vancouver Mayor Timothy D. Leavitt said in a news release. “The entire Vancouver City Council extends our condolences to the Miller family.”

The family requests that donations be made to the Vancouver Firefighting Community Assistance Fund at 2807 N.W. Fruit Valley Road in Vancouver.

The department draws on the fund in cases where it might need to help people stranded buy a few dollars of gas, or buy some emergency goods such as diapers for families in need, Spatz said.

“We are proud of Andrew and all that he accomplished,” Molina said in a news release. “The news is a tremendous loss to both Andrew’s family and the Vancouver Fire Department family.”

Separate crash

While police were at the scene investigating, officers were nearly injured themselves in a separate crash when an un-involved vehicle nearly struck one of the officers, police said.

Two officers were wearing reflective vests standing in the street, directing traffic on Northeast Chkalov Drive near Interstate 205, when a vehicle driven by Shaunna D. Lafever, 52, of Vancouver, approached them from behind, Vancouver Police Spokeswoman Kim Kapp said.

The vehicle came within a few feet of one of the officers, Kapp said. Lafever was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of intoxicants and booked into the Clark County Jail.

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Columbian Breaking News Reporter
Columbian environment and transportation reporter