Service to the community and representation of the core values of a firefighter are among the reasons for Cave City Fire Chief Ronny Milligan being selected by the Three River's Fire Fighter's Association for the Joe Coker Achievement Award.
The late Joe Coker was an officer on the Arkansas State Fire Chief's Association, and later served as president. He was the chief of the Walnut Ridge Fire Department from 1984-1998. Coker worked for Walnut Ridge as a volunteer fire chief from 1984 until he became the full time chief in 1991. He was also instrumental in helping pass legislation to get the Black River Fire Training Center through Black River College.
The award is given through nomination. Last year, Sharp county native Alan Haskins, who currently serves as the Walnut Ridge Fire Chief, won the award. Haskins, Ash Flat Fire Chief Stacey Horton and Pleasant Plains Fire Chief Stacey Caplinger nominated Milligan for the prestigious award. Both Haskins and Horton are on the board of the Three Rivers Fire Fighters Association which encompasses Sharp, Fulton, Independence, Lawrence, Randolph, Stone and Izard counties.
Coker's wife Barbara presented the award to Milligan April 1. The association only presents one of the Joe Coker Achievement awards annually; the winner is then eligible for the Arkansas Firefighter of the Year Award, which Haskins was honored to receive in 2009.
Milligan has been with the Cave City Fire Department for 30 years. He served as assistant chief in 1985. He has served as fire chief since 1993, with the exception of one year. Milligan is also an EMT with Spring River Paramedic and Ambulance Service. He and his wife Maretta have been married for 31 years. He has two daughters, Bridgette Garland and Brandi Johnson and one grandson Cole Johnson and one on the way.
During Milligan's career as Cave City Fire Chief, he has been instrumental in helping the department purchase a van and convert it to a rescue unit and holding a fundraiser to purchase tools as well as training the department to use the items. Again in 1986, Milligan helped the department to convert a newer rescue unit, then utilizing the old unit for a service truck. In 1993, Milligan assisted the fire department in getting a new three bay fire station for the city, as well as several pumpers for the department. One of Milligan's proudest accomplishments was in 2004, when the fire department received an ISO 4 rating, saving many area residents money on their homeowner's insurance policies. Milligan is also a certified training officer.
During Milligan's third decade with the Cave City Fire Department, the chief was able to purchase a new three bay building that is utilized for maintenance and storage of the mobile command trailer. This trailer was made a reality for the department in 2008. The trailer is fully equipped for any emergency situation from weather related scenarios to search and rescue instances. The command center was made from a car hauler that was purchased economically and retrofitted to include the required equipment, including storage space and state of the art equipment at no cost to the city. The command center was very useful during the 2009 ice storm. With wireless internet, phone, fax, supplies of both food and shelter, the command center can be self-sustaining for up to 72 hours.
The department won the prestigious honor of the Arkansas Adjusters Association Fire Department of the Year in 2009.