Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive


By Leo K. Najarian


From L.A. Times
"William L. Miller, retired Chief Engineer, Los Angeles City Fire Department,
died June 4, 1989 in Lake Elsinore, CA. Immediate cremation."

LAFD Centennial Book:
"Los Angeles and its fire problems were dramatically different in 1956 from those that William L. Miller found when he moved to Los Angels in 1928 from Iowa. Born January 31, 1906 in Morrison, Iowa, he arrived in the city shortly before the Wall Street stock market crash. His Cedar Rapids Business College training at first led him into administrative jobs, including district manager of circulation for the Los Angeles Examiner."

Bill Miller joined the Los Angeles Fire Department during the depression,June 1, 1933 and was first assigned to Engine 63 in Venice. Career promotions followed in order.

Captain- 1940 -Engine 40

Battalion Chief- 1948 -Battalion 9

Assistant Chief (Fire Marshall)-
1954 -Fire Prevention Bureau

Chief Engineer & General Manager 1956-1965

Another position served by Bill Miller was as a Lieutenant Commander in charge of damage control while attached to the Admiral's Staff in the South Atlantic Fleet in World War II duty. Miller also served as 1941-1942 president of the Los Angeles Firemen's Relief Association; a post no other firefighter who was to become Chief Engineer ever held.

Post war Los Angeles experienced a virtual explosion of growth in population and industry - doubling in size. As Chief Engineer, Miller's challenge was to rebuild the fire department to match this unprecedented escalation of development. He met his challenge successfully as is documented in the LAFD publication "10 Years of Progress."

These accomplishments included:

  1. Successfully retained LAFD's Class 1 rating despite L.A.'s tremendous expansion and growth through rebuilding and restricting the department, financially made possible by passage of 14.5 M Bond issue-Prop. A
  2. Instituted first Fire Service Day in 1956 which expanded statewide in 1957.
  3. Passed ordinance banning all "open fires" in Los Angeles, greatly reducing the fire losses and responses.
  4. Rebuilt many outdated fire stations, added new Fireboats (according to LAFD specs).

    Established first Helicopter and Helitak Units, combined salvage and rescue operations. Advanced airport (LAX & VAN NUYS) fire protection to meet the jet age.
    Developed Rescue-Ambulance Service for patient transportation.

  5. Established the three platoon system, greatly increasing promotional positions and salaries.
  6. Conduced operation school burning tests published by NFPA in books I and II.
  7. Started program for Operation High Rise, formulating fireground procedures for major high-rise fires.
  8. Established first Fire Research Laboratory for a fire department.
  9. Started and completed the stormy desegregation of the Fire Department during his tenure as Fire Chief.
  10. With his work completed, William L. Miller retired on July 16, 1965.

                                                                            This article appeared in the July, 1989 issue of The Firemen's Grapevine

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