Nova Scotia

Queens County mill owners donate $30K for firefighting equipment

The owners of a lumber mill have made a significant contribution to the local fire department in Greenfield, N.S., donating $30,000 worth of new bunker gear, including firefighter suits, gloves and boots.

Chief of Greenfield and District Volunteer Fire Department says 'donation is a really big deal'

Harry Freeman and Son Ltd. president Charlie Freeman (back row, red jacket) poses with 11 Greenfield firefighters in their newly donated bunker gear. (Krista Crouse)

Greenfield in Queens County is about as rural as you get in Nova Scotia.

Located between Bridgewater and Kejimkujik National Park, the biggest employer in the community is the lumber mill Harry Freeman and Son Ltd.

On Monday night, the owners of the mill made a significant contribution to the local fire department, donating $30,000 worth of new bunker gear, including firefighter suits, gloves and boots.

"There's only a little bit of tax base in Queens County and my budget is under $50,000 a year," said Moyal Conrad, the chief of the Greenfield and District Volunteer Fire Department. "This donation is a really big deal."

Conrad said the donation will bring new volunteers to his department. There are now 37 volunteer firefighters in the Greenfield area and several of them, including himself, work for the Freeman mill.

Freeman presents new bunker gear to volunteer firefighter Nicole Karvelas. (Krista Crouse)

Back in June, there were a slew of fire calls in Greenfield, including a structure fire at the mill.

"We had a call of smoke conditions at the mill and when we got there the attic of the boiler house was on fire," said Conrad.

Fortunately, the fire was extinguished before much damage was done.

Mill plagued by devastating fires in the past

The Freeman lumber mill is one of the oldest family-run sawmill businesses in North America. The Freeman family established their first sawmill in Greenfield in 1832, when the village was first settled.

The company now produces approximately 100 million board feet of lumber and value-added lumber products annually.

But through the years there have been fires and other disasters that have had devastating impacts on the operations.

A shingles plant at the mill was destroyed by a fire in 1905. The mill was destroyed by a flood in 1956. In 1990, it burned to the ground.

Each time it was rebuilt and today it has 150 employees.

'Backbone of every rural community'

Many of the Greenfield firefighters work at the mill. Two members of the Freeman family are firefighters and Charlie Freeman, the president of the company, was a member of the fire department for 40 years.

"We didn't want our men to have inferior equipment so we said we would buy new bunker gear for them," Freeman said of the donation. "They were about $2,000 a set."

Conrad said fire departments are "the backbone of every rural community,"

"Without our fire department, I don't think this community could really survive, so that's why they're helping us out," he said.

Conrad said the Freemans have contributed to several other projects in the area.

He said they made significant financial contributions to the construction of a new school and a new church, complete with meeting rooms and exercise facilities.

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