After serving 22 years with the North Las Vegas Fire Department, Capt. Yaphet Miller died late Wednesday after collapsing in the line of duty.
North Las Vegas fire spokesman Capt. Cedric Williams did not specify what caused Miller’s death, but a GoFundMe page set up to help with funeral expenses explained Miller’s heart stopped four days after helping fight a large, three-alarm fire Sept. 22.
Though Miller’s heart was restarted, his brain had suffered anoxic damage resulting from lack of oxygen and he never recovered. Miller, 43, died late Wednesday with family by his side, officials said.
Williams, who knew Miller for years, said it’s not uncommon for firefighters to collapse hours and days after fighting fires, which is why Miller’s death is considered to have occurred in the line of duty.
“This department, this city, this country has lost one of its best,” Williams said tearfully Thursday at North Las Vegas Fire Department headquarters. As he spoke, the large North Las Vegas fire badge that hung on the wall behind him featured a black band strapped across it in mourning.
The small badge Williams wore had a black band across it, too.
“He was my compadre. I loved him very much,” Williams said.
One of the defining moments of Miller’s career was on Nov. 13, 2006, when Miller pulled an 11-month-old, apparently lifeless girl from the smoke and flames of a large apartment fire near Martin Luther King Boulevard and Cheyenne Avenue.
Miller found the girl in smoke so thick the firefighters couldn’t see their hands, Williams said.
“He just hears this faint — and I’ve talked to him a thousand times about this — he just hears this faint moan or murmur, and he’s thinking, “Man, is that what I think it is? I think I hear something.’ He wasn’t quite sure,” Williams said.
As Miller listened, he felt around for a door, which he found, then carefully pushed open. When he reached down to scoop up whatever was making the noise, he realized it was little Jaielayah Swindell.
He rushed her outside, handed her to paramedics, then turned around and “finished the task at hand,” Williams said.
The girl survived after being resuscitated. Years later, she stopped by the station to “meet her hero,” Williams said, and Miller was overjoyed to see her.
On Thursday, Jaielayah’s family was shocked and saddened to hear of Miller’s death.
“She was a little girl at the time, but she still remembers it,” said the girl’s stepfather, Steven Wilson, 42. “If you had seen that apartment, it was gone.”
Wilson said the recent reunion between Jaielayah, now age 10, and Miller was emotional.
“He remembered it like it had just happened yesterday,” Wilson said. “He hugged her, and when he hugged her, he kind of picked her up, like he was still carrying her from that event.”
Miller is survived by his wife, his two children and his mother. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Williams said Jaielayah has grown to be a “superstar in school.” She still lives in the Las Vegas Valley.
“I will personally make sure she will be there at his funeral, to meet his family,” Wilson said. “It would be my honor.”
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