After decades of service Breens retire from Mulgrave Volunteer Fire Department

MULGRAVE: Two mainstays of the volunteer fire department have decided to hang up their hats.

A couple of weeks ago, Michael and Evangeline Breen decided that after decades volunteering, they will both retire from the Mulgrave Volunteer Fire Department.

“It’s time to leave it go and let the younger generation run it,” Michael told The Reporter.

Michael served 43 years on the department, the last 28 years as fire chief.

“I was planning on retiring at the end of this term, and one of my goals was to see if we can replace the last old truck that we had,” he said. “The fire department itself, equipment-wise, we finally caught up.”

A 1,000 gallon pumper truck, which was purchased for $110,000 from New Brunswick, arrived at the Mulgrave Volunteer Fire Department on April 6. It has the capacity to pump 1,500 gallons per minute, according to Michael.

Formerly from Cape Jack, Michael moved to Mulgrave after marrying Evangeline. To get involved in his new community, he felt the fire department was the best avenue so he joined in 1978, 30 years after the town created a fire department from a community fire brigade. He said this started the close relationship between the town and the department.

Over those five decades, Michael recalled the fatal vehicle crashes, residential fires and other emergency calls which stay with him.

“It’s hard. You have to remember, in a small town like this, you know everybody. They’re either related or you know them real well,” he noted. “When you go on a call, you don’t know what you’re going to get.”

“We’ve been married for 48 years this coming June, but most of our time was spent together at the fire hall,” Evangeline recalled.

Evangeline served 22 years as a member of the ladies auxiliary, as a firefighter and one of the founding members of the department’s Medical First Responder Team.

“I joined, first of all, because my husband Michael was spending 90 per cent of his time at the fire hall volunteering, to raise money, fix up the hall, training, meetings, and everything else,” she recalled. “So I said, ‘well, if I can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,’ because we are a very close couple and we pretty well stick together. I thought it would be great for me to join because then I’ll be doing something he loves also. Then I found out that I really loved what I did and enjoyed it for the 22 years.”

Evangeline said she liked being there to help.

“It made me feel good that we could the town and the people in the town, especially on a lot of the medical calls,” she noted. “It was very difficult of course, because there were a lot of sad scenes, but it was very reward, to me that I could help these people.”

But this level of involvement also entails a major time commitment, Evangeline noted.

“We’ve done a lot of fundraising over the years, and a lot of volunteering, a lot of meetings and training, fires trying to help people out,” she noted. “We’re up in our late 60s and early 70s, so we thought we’d take a little bit of time for ourselves. But it was hard, it was very hard to leave the department because our members are awesome and we really appreciate the work they put in also.”

The Breens pointed to successful fundraisers like the Mulgrave Haunted House, the regular Casino Night, the Nova Scotia Firefighters 50/50 Draw, and Chase the Ace.

“That was a major fundraiser and it also involved a lot of people in the community,” Evangeline said of the haunted house. “The kids helped out a lot. It kept them busy over Halloween.”

Mike Breen (right)

Michael pointed out that Nova Scotia’s former Lieutenant Governor, Myra Freeman visited the haunted house.

“It drew a lot of people into the town, they came from everywhere to go to the haunted house,” Michael recalled.

Partnering with the legion in Mulgrave, Evangeline said the Casino Night was an “amazing fundraiser,” along with the others.

“It was great for the people, they all enjoyed it,” she noted of Casino Night.

They said these fundraisers, along with financial assistance from the Town of Mulgrave, helped the department pay for three fire trucks, equipment, and major renovations to the fire hall.

“In order to purchase a truck, the town would have had a hard job to purchase it by themselves,” Michael explained. “We kept going, and since 1980, we’ve been helping the town buy trucks.”

The Breens said in addition to some long-term members, there are a number of younger and newer members, and they added that the future looks bright for the fire department.

Michael added he worked with great people over the years, including firefighters and ladies auxiliary members.

“We’re really going to miss gathering with our members, whether it was a work party, a meeting, fires, medical calls, afterwards, we’re going to miss the camaraderie. We’re going to miss the interaction with the town’s people to be there to help. If we hear a fire truck going down the road, I know myself and I’m sure Michael is the same way, our hearts are going to be pumping,” Evangeline stated. “I find it hard knowing that I’m not going to be going to the fire hall anymore for these calls and that. But we need time to ourselves.”