Duluth Firefighter remembers dad who died in the line of duty

Emily Ness
Updated: September 27, 2020 10:32 PM

From sunrise until sunset, flags flew at half-staff across the state of Minnesota Sunday in honor of firefighters who died in the line of duty.


For Duluth firefighter Dylan Mills, this hit close to home because his dad, Robert is one of 19 Duluth firefighters to die in the line of duty since the department’s inception in 1870.

Mills said his dad, Robert spent 30 years with the Duluth Fire Department and retired as a captain after he was diagnosed with melanoma.

“He battled it and was forced to retire because of it and then ultimately passed away afterwards from that,” Mills said. “It’s been ruled a line of duty death assuming that, that's something you conducted as a hazard of your employment.”

Despite growing up around the fire station with his dad, Dylan says he didn't expect to become a firefighter, but he ended up following in his dad’s footsteps anyway.

“As grew older and was thinking about what I wanted to do, it became more obvious that I wanted to work where I could help people,” Mills said.

Before his death, Dylan said his dad got to see him serve as a fire fighter and help people, which he was very proud of.

“He was alive for about a year after I got hired here so I know that was nice for him,” Mills said.

Today, Dylan works closely with men and women who knew his dad.

“There's quite a few people around who worked with him and it’s kind of cool to hear a story about your dad from someone that you've never heard before,” Mills said.

Dylan also works with Marine-19, the fire department's rescue boat named after Duluth’s 19 fallen fire fighters.

“It’s really something special—the name behind it and everything,” Mills said.

As he works to save the lives of people every day, Dylan says the memory of his dad and Duluth’s other fallen fire fighters will never be forgotten and helps guide him. 

“I try to take it more as kind of a cue to look toward the future and what we can do better to be more safe in the future and just do a better job of what we do tomorrow and always strive to improve,” Mills said.


Emily Ness

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