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Volunteer firefighters give Young Township boy who died in fire a fitting funeral

| Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Tribune-Review
Family and friends watch as fireman from the Grandview Volunteer Fire Department in Penn Twp. load the the casket of Michael Jerome Collier, 9, onto a fire truck from a Jeannette funeral home to the cemetery Wednesday morning. The boy and his grandmother,  Vickie Milliron, 50, of Claridge, died when his mobile home in Indiana County burned late Friday. Michael wanted to be a fireman and spent time at a fire station, helping to wash the trucks and doing other tasks. Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review

“Little Mike” Collier finally got to ride on a fire engine — something the 8-year-old boy always wanted — when firefighters took his casket to its final resting place in Twin Valley Memorial Park in Delmont on Wednesday.

“He would ask us every time he visited, but the guys would either be too busy or it just got overlooked,” said Bill Long, chief of Grandview Volunteer Fire Department in Penn Township.

In a “smaller version of a firefighter's funeral,” about 30 members of the Grandview department and ladies auxiliary honored the little boy and his family, Long said.

Michael Jerome Collier of Young Township and Vickie Milliron, 50, of Claridge, died earlier this month in a mobile home fire on Route 286, outside of Clarksburg in Indiana County.

Collier's mother, Theresa Firek, was not home at the time of the blaze on Friday. Firek's other son, Dominic, and fiance Brian Shunk — Milliron's son — were injured in the fire and taken to UMPC Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh.

Dominic Collier remains in serious condition and Shunk has been discharged, according to a UPMC Mercy spokeswoman.

Long said Little Mike and Dominic often visited the Grandview fire station on Ridge Road with their father, Michael Collier Jr., and grandfather, Michael Collier Sr., who both were members.

“They would wash the trucks or run around and hang out with the guys,” Long said. “I called them my junior-junior firemen.”

Long said Michael always showed special interest in the station and its equipment.

“He always wanted to know what every single button and control on every single piece of equipment and apparatus did,” Long said.

Long said after the funeral, the station was somber and quiet as firefighters washed the trucks and put them back into service.

“Multiple families are mourning the sudden, tragic loss of this little boy,” Long said. “He was a brother, a son, and a grandson, but he was also a nephew to a lot of the guys here because of the brotherhood of our members. I'm just glad we were finally able to give him the ride that he never got to take.”

Jewels Phraner is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-1218 or jphraner@tribweb.com.

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