New Hope Eagle Fire Co. embarked on a new chapter in its 200-year history this week as Gary Breuer became its first paid chief.
Eagle Fire Company provides critical fire protection, vehicle rescue, water rescue and hazardous materials response for more than 10,000 residents in New Hope Borough and Solebury Township.
In recent years, Eagle Fire has been met with a growing demand for services, responding to approximately 400 calls per year, and subsequently, increased training, recruiting and fundraising needs. Its leadership saw this as an opportunity to rethink its structure.
“We have a vibrant volunteer community,” said Gagan Tayal, president of New Hope Eagle Fire Company’s Board of Directors. “And we realized that having a professional role focused on recruitment, administrative functions, implementing the latest trainings, and overseeing collaborations with other rescue agencies, would help us enhance our services and maintain the vitality of Eagle Fire as a volunteer organization.”
To begin the restructure, Eagle Fire developed a funding plan to support a paid chief position through alternative revenue sources and fundraising efforts, rather than with increased taxes.
“We are not asking residents to fund this through tax increases, although it is a huge value to the community,” said Tayal.
The team established a committee to conduct a nationwide search, vetting nearly 50 candidates for the position and ultimately selecting Gary Breuer, who was serving as the per-diem deputy chief for Lambertville Fire Co.
Breuer holds more than 40 years of experience in emergency services as a firefighter, rescue technician, swift water and marine rescue technician and emergency medical technician.
“We selected Gary Breuer for his deep, broad expertise, his commitment to public safety, and his knowledge of our community,” said Tayal.
Breuer began his volunteer service with the Flemington Raritan Rescue Squad in New Jersey at the age of 15, following in the footsteps of his father, a volunteer firefighter.
“My father definitely helped to inspire my interest,” Breuer said. “I grew up in the firehouse with my dad. On Sunday mornings when there was a drill, I’d end up there with my dad and enjoyed it from the time I was little. From the time I was in high school, I’ve always been involved in emergency services. Public service is all I’ve ever known.”
Breuer served in various fire departments throughout his high school and college careers and continued after he was married and moved to West Amwell, N.J. When he graduated from The College of New Jersey (then known as Trenton State College), he became a Raritan Township police officer and would serve in that role for 20 years, all while continuing to volunteer as a firefighter. Breuer later became one of the charter members and a task force leader with the New Jersey State Police Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 1 and a chief instructor at the Hunterdon County Emergency Services Training Center.
It was in 2017 that Breuer joined the Lambertville Fire Co., and, through his work there, he engaged with local teams to assist with river rescues.
“I was in New Hope quite often, we would go to assist with these rescues, and I became familiar with the community.”
It was this familiarity and the close proximity of New Hope that inspired Breuer to seek the position as Eagle Fire’s chief.
“They have a really strong volunteer base,” said Breuer. “Even with that base, day-to-day operations can be daunting —everything from maintaining equipment to developing training schedules… I’m looking forward to helping them take the administrative burdens off of their volunteers, so they can focus on their primary responsibility, responding to calls.”
Breuer reported for his first day on Monday. When asked where he would begin, Breuer said, “I plan to meet with the officers to better understand what their goals are. I will use their insights to make improvements and to build a long-range training plan.”