Most people understand firefighting is a dangerous business.

But when we think of firefighters risking their lives, it usually involves them rushing into a burning building to rescue occupants.

Fireballs, collapsing ceilings, floors giving way -- those are the things we imagine give firefighters chills.

The list of hazards, in fact, is quite long and has little to do with actually fighting fires, according to local fire officials.

"It's a different world now," said Ronald McCullough, fire chief of Glen Rock Hose & Ladder Fire Co. "We see on the news first responders get hit by drunk drivers, people texting. Firefighters are even taken hostage. The job becomes dangerous as soon as our pagers go off."

That's the reality for firefighters -- a reality the rest of us, sadly, came to understand last weekend.

Loganville Fire Co.'s longtime chief, Rodney Miller, joined the department as a junior firefighter at 16. He'd been on countless calls over the years, many probably just like the one he responded to early Saturday morning.

A crash had occurred on Interstate 83 near exit 8. While a neighboring company handled the wreck, Miller was tasked with directing traffic off the interstate farther north.

That's what he was doing when an alleged drunk driver swerved around Miller's vehicle, which was parked in the right lane with its emergency lights on, and struck the chief around 12:30 a.m.


The 45-year-old Seven Valleys resident was pronounced dead at York Hospital.

Driver Matthew Scott Diehl, 32, of Shrewsbury -- who didn't stop until he was forced to because of traffic backed up at the earlier crash -- was charged with homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence and other violations.

"To hit him and just keep on going ... it's gut-wrenching," said Steve Buffington, president of the York County Fire Chiefs and Firefighters Association and retired chief of York City Department of Fire/Rescue Services.

The York County firefighting community is a brotherhood, its members said.

And this week that brotherhood is mourning "a happy-go-lucky, hard-working, dedicated man," McCullough said.

"He was a good leader. We lost a great guy in the community," said Shannon Blevins, fire chief at the neighboring Jacobus station.

Perhaps most telling about Miller, and almost all of the other firefighters in the county, is that he was a volunteer.

He put his life on the line over all those years for no compensation.

Miller did that for his community.

At the very least, he and the rest of the brotherhood deserve our appreciation and respect.

But more importantly, they also deserve for us to slow down, follow their directions -- and not make a dangerous situation worse.