Sussex firefighters retire from volunteer service after combined service of 97 years

·3 min read

Two volunteer firefighters with the Sussex Fire Department have two words of advice for new younger volunteers joining to help keep their community safe.

"Keep training," said Clayton MacCallum and Tom Murray who retired Saturday with a combined service of 97 years between them.

The two Sussex residents joined the fire department in the 1970s when things were very different when it came to training, the gear worn and equipment used.

MacCallum, who served 47 years, said there is a big difference now compared to when he joined.

"We just come through the doors of the fire station grabbed a pair of boots and a coat, and away we went."

Murray with 50 years of service said he got started because he had a lot of friends who were volunteering in the department.


"There was a big fire on Halloween night and I was hanging around and they asked me to join. So I joined and I've been there ever since."

But being a firefighter in a small town means you know everyone, and that can mean the people you're trying to help could be close friends, or even a family member.

For Murray that happened in 1991 when he responded to a house fire that killed his brother, also a fireman, and sister-in-law.

"I didn't know where it was until I got there. I knew then."

Murray said there were other tragedies they responded to, including one where the whole family died in the fire.

"Back in the days we knew pretty well everybody. We knew pretty well where we was going when the call came in."

Bad calls remembered

Often, no one talked about how they felt after those types of calls and kept it bottled up. But Murray said it made a difference when they did talk.

"They get together at the station and talk about it and kind of let it out instead of holding it all in."

For MacCallum, the worst call was the bus crash that killed four teenagers in April 2001. The bus was carrying more than 40 students from Massachusetts who were en route to a music festival in Halifax. The crash happened on a sharp turn near Sussex, back when Highway 1 merged with the Trans-Canada Highway there. The bus driver took the wrong exit ramp and couldn't make the turn, The bus rolled onto its side and down a hill.

"That was the worst one," MacCallum said.

Both men also recalled the huge fire on Broad Street in Sussex's downtown core. Two buildings were destroyed but they said they were able to save other buildings from being destroyed.

MacCallum said he will miss being a firefighter but said the department has a good team with new people joining.

"We did our time there and had a lot of fun and, you know, a lot of good times and a lot of hard times. But, oh, it's going to be hard not to be there."

Murray said he'll keep busy doing a bit of trucking but agrees it will be hard not being there to help out.