Cindy has been married to Tradd Mills for nearly 15 years (on November 29!). Tradd is a Lieutenant with the Burton Fire District, in South Carolina where he is is a firefighter/paramedic. They have 3 daughters,Storm (13) Kacy (10) and Cameron (7). They live in Coastal South Carolina in a neighborhood for now, but will soon be moving into a cabin… in the woods! Talk about woods…They also have 1 old, but incredibly faithful Doberman, 6 cats, 1 rabbit, 4 chicken hens, 4 runner ducks and 23 Cayuga ducks (We use the females (known as “ducks) eggs for eating, baking and selling. We have too many males (known as “drakes”) right now so we will have harvest four of them for the dinner table soon. For real! They taste wonderful roasted and we run a farm here. Besides that, having too many males is a bad thing when it comes to drakes. I feel bad for the poor over-worked ducks!).
How did you meet Tradd?
It was a crazy combination of coincidence and divine intervention. I had grown up in Arizona, but had to move to California in high school. My best friend from Arizona moved to South Carolina just a few months after we moved. We stayed close friends and when I was in college, she visited me in California, spent the summer with me, and handed me the phone one day when she was talking to her fiance. She said, “His friend saw your picture, thinks you’re cute and wants to talk to you. He says he’s going to marry you.” Haha! Yeah, I thought it was hilarious and I blew him off for months. We talked on the phone some and wrote letters back and forth. After a year of this, I traveled to SC for my best friend’s wedding and met him for the first time. Even though he insisted we would get married, I knew I would never marry this Southern “hick.” But six days after meeting in person we were engaged. Eleven months later, we were married and finally lived in the same state together!
Have you ever been a worrywart about him working?
I’m not much of a worrier. My dad was a sheriff’s deputy and a dang good one who worked his way from the streets up to the officer levels and eventually to start and run his own jail for a city in California. All those years, I never saw my mom worry about him. She never cared if he was home or gone for a night; off-duty or on. She was okay with him being woken up and leaving for a call. No matter what he had to do for work, we operated the same way. Since I never saw it bother her, it never bothered me. I learned the comfort of a stable, loving home very early in childhood and I learned flexibility in scheduling the same way.
What keeps the worry away for you?
I live the life I love, despite whether my firefighter is home or gone. He’s my best friend and my lover, but he’s not the be-all, end-all for me. I have hobbies and interests that don’t revolve around him, so I’m always busy, never bored. I don’t have time to worry! Haha! Aside from that, I have a deep trust in Tradd’s intelligence, judgment, skills and abilities. He wants to come home to us as much as we want him to.
Has Tradd ever had any close calls?
Not since we’ve been together. I think he had some when he was very new and everything was still a lesson to be learned.
Have you ever hated the Fire Dept?
Oh, definitely! I would probably worry about a fire wife who didn’t hate it at some point. Haha! When we were newly married, I considered the fire department to be the other woman; his mistress. I’ve spent a fair share of time despising the relationship Tradd’s had with her. When there was a free night, he dated her. If I cried for his attention, the pager cried louder. If the fire department needed his devotion and dedication, he knew I’d still be home when he returned. Lucky for him, I always was.
What is the best advice you have for any soon-to-be, newlywed firefighter wife?
Learn to love this life and make it your own. Firefighting is not a career. It is a lifestyle. Being a fire wife is not a choice if you are married to a firefighter, but you don’t have to hate it for the time it robs from you. Love your firefighter. Love the lifestyle. Make it your fire wife life.
How do you occupy your time?
Ha! The real question is, how do I not occupy my time? I am a very, very busy woman. I homeschool our three daughters, which takes a lot of time since none of them are at the same levels in school. Thankfully, part of homeschooling for us involves teaching the girls all sorts of fun homesteading skills that I enjoy. So together, we run a sort of farm here. Each of my girls excels at something different. My youngest one is the one who always helps me in the garden. She also helps me cook and bake every chance she gets and loves hunting. She killed her first deer last year and takes great pride in bringing home food for the family, starting at age 6. My middle daughter is my best chef. She wants to know all I can teach her about spices, flavor combinations, the nutrition of real foods (never processed or packaged stuff,) baking, and everything edible. If my youngest and I grow something, or our hunters bring it home, this one can cook it. My oldest daughter’s favorite thing is hunting and raising livestock. She outhunts her daddy these days. She’s also into raising the ducks with me, beekeeping with her daddy, and wants to get alpacas to be able to raise and sell their wool. I also do all the normal Mommy stuff like shuffling the girls to violin lessons, flute lessons and orchestra several times every week.
Aside from this, I read as much as I possibly can. I finished my bachelor’s degree years ago, but I’m always learning something new. I also write for my own personal blog Fire Wife Life, for Firefighter Wife, and for Firehouse.com. It’s so fun to connect with other distant fire wives and help them understand that their feelings are all normal. None of us has perfected this life, but we can all help each other through it. So…occupy my time? Heck, I can’t find enough time in the day to squeeze everything in!
What is your favorite memory that involves firefighting or the fire dept?
Well, I have a lot of favorite fire department memories: family picnics, awards banquets, Christmas parties and parades, lengthy fire calls where our FAST team has been called to provide hot coffee and food in the middle of cold nights. One of my favorite things though is when our family has volunteered our time to help the firefighters with training. We do this every couple years to give the FF’s a chance to respond to a mock emergency involving children. My FF has been a paramedic forever and his department has very few paramedics, so he does this to give the FF’s a chance to work their skills.
The girls (and sometimes their friends) get dressed up as victims, complete with fake blood and staged scenario. Once, we staged my girls getting hit by a car while riding their bikes. Another time, my FF got a wrecking company to drop off a couple wrecked cars and the girls were in one of the cars. Another time, we used a bunch of our homeschool friends to stage a school shooting. (Ironic, right? Homeschoolers helping the FF’s practice responding to a school shooting. Great training for them though.) These are all real-life, legitimate scenarios, sadly and it is a great way to give the FF’s the chance to practice their skills in a non-emergent way.
They work through the scenarios and practice things like scene assessment, triage, backboarding, extrication, and medical skills. Afterward, they all talk and break down the “call” to see how things went and where they could have improved. It’s been fun to see the FF’s improve throughout the years. The first year, a couple of the guys were so distraught that they shut down and couldn’t function enough to make their way through the scenario. This could have been very bad had it happened on a real scene. They have all improved so much throughout the years that it makes me intensely proud of them.
The best part is when one of the biggest firefighters stops in every scenario and asks the girls, “Hey, pause the scenario for a minute and talk. Really, are you okay? Am I hurting you?” He’s a big guy with a soft side and a tenderness that saves him a special spot in the heart of our family. Firefighters are always supposed to be tough pillars of strength, but we know and love another side of them, too.
What do you suggest any new fire wife do to get to know other wives at the station?
I wish I had some superb advice in this department, but I feel somewhat inadequate answering this question. I simply consider myself lucky for being a part of a department that has wonderful wives and a support team known as FAST (Firefighter Assistance & Support Team) who plans family events throughout the year and pulls together at any hour to assist the firefighters on long fire calls. I love the fire wives at our department and I feel incredibly blessed to have such a superb group of strong, kind ladies who have become sisters to me as much as their husbands are brothers to my firefighter.
I would add one thing for any newer fire wife though. Do not discount the value of the female firefighters who are part of your husband’s brotherhood. Some of my favorite firefighting friends throughout the years have been the female partners that Tradd’s worked with. These women have all been caring, funny, beautiful, generous, and tough as nails. It would have been easy to get jealous of them and hate them for the time they spent with my husband, the close quarters they were in, or the jokes they could reminisce over and laugh about because they were on the calls together. But since I chose to get to know them and accept them as my firefighter’s partners, I was welcomed into their lives and their hearts too. I heard the stories, laughed along with them, and eventually knew them outside of work as well.
Still to this day, Tradd’s first female paramedic partner holds a special place in my heart 15 years later. We were pregnant at the same time, attended each other’s baby showers, and she was even one of the first people to hold Storm in the hospital, just minutes after being born. His other favorite female partner still works for the same FD in Arizona where we met her. We will be visiting family there soon and I cannot wait to see her and her huge, amazing family when we go back! She is still one of my favorite people, along with her firefighter husband, who was in charge of Tradd’s fire academy when he first started there. They are some of the most genuine, hilarious, lovely and admirable people I know. Hearts of gold and nothing but love for family and friends.
These are the kind of firefighters and firefighting families I’ve had the privilege of knowing throughout the years. So don’t let jealousy rule your feelings and your life. Sure, there have been some trashy FF’s too, both male and female. As of right now though, I can’t remember the name of a single one of them from our past. They are not important. The strong bonds of the good ones are important though. Foster these bonds. These are the relationships to treasure for the rest of your life.
What is your favorite thing to do while he is on shift?
Clean the house. Ha! This seems like a dumb answer as I write it, but it’s true. When Tradd is home, especially on a day he doesn’t work his second job, we are constantly on the go or just playing around. We only pause long enough to cook and eat a meal, drop more stuff, get ready for something else and go again. It seems like his first day back on shift is always spent putting stuff away and straightening up. Then I usually want to cook or bake something special and relax for some cuddle time with my girls at the day’s end.
How does shift work in your favor?
I love, love, love his current shift! Throughout the years, we’ve had many different shifts to schedule around, but this one is by far, my favorite. He works 48 hours on, then gets 96 hours off. It makes it fairly simple for him to work another job or schedule vacation. That’s the best part, since we like to take homeschooling field trips. If he takes just one shift off, he can have a total of 10 days between shifts! It’s wonderful.
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