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Branford Fire Department Deputy Chief Ronald Mullen

It is with heavy hearts that we pass along the sad news of the passing of Branford Fire Department Deputy Chief Ronald Mullen.

UPDATED. Branford Deputy Chief Ronald R. Mullen died last night when he walked onto an Amtrak railroad track and was struck by an oncoming Shoreline East passenger train near Pleasant Point Road in Pine Orchard.

Mullen, who was 55, served with the Branford Fire Department for nearly four decades and was considered one of the best arson investigators in the state. He gave key testimony recently at the Kathy Hardy arson-murder trial in Hartford, testimony that helped to win a conviction of Hardy’s murderer. Mullen’s father was a former fire chief in the department.

Amtrak police, who are in charge of the investigation, were putting together the pieces of the case today. Amtrak investigators found Mullen’s wallet near the scene, which is how they learned his identity.

Police and fire officials who were at the scene last night were not able to identify Mullen and were stunned to learn this morning that he was the one killed.

Mullen served as interim deputy chief during the transition from former Fire Chief Jack Ahern to the current Fire Chief Thomas Mahoney.

{media_2}Mullen was the keynote speaker at the dedication of the new fire headquarters in 2012. He said then he had been waiting for a new fire house since following in his dad’s footsteps he joined the department some 30 years ago, when he was 19. “The wheels of progress truly spin slowly and in this fire department I have often wondered if our wheels of progress were square in shape.” Click here to read the story.

Former Fire Chief Jack Ahern Remembers

Ahern was devastated by the news this morning. “He was my best friend,” Ahern said. He and Mullen grew up on Toole Drive “where we were inseparable as kids. Watching our fathers dash off to fires instilled the passion we both shared of the fire department. As young kids, pre-fire department days we were “victims” for his father’s training classes. We traveled the state literally hanging from bill boards, placed in mangled cars, put in manholes and other precarious situations so that others could learn from real life situations. We had the time of our lives and the love of the fire department never left us. We had a lifelong friendship.”

Ahern joined the fire department when Mullen’s dad was the chief. Ahern recalled in an interview this morning that Mullen “was part of my wedding. When Lisa and I were married in 1984 Ron was one of the first guys I asked to stand by my side and he never left it. We both suffered some serious health issues and Ron never complained once; in fact many people knew nothing of his illness. He became an integral part of the town’s fire department as well as a respected arson investigator and college professor at the University of New Haven. He was truly dedicated to his profession. He will be missed but never forgotten.”

Apparently Mullen walked from his home on Beechwood Road to the train crossing, went on to the tracks and waited for the train. Police were planning to talk to Mullen’s wife this morning. He has two children from a prior marriage and one young son with his current wife. (See top photo).

The train struck Mullen at about 7:20 p.m. The passenger train had been traveling east from New Haven, likely a commuter train at that time of night. It was heading to Guilford and to stops beyond. Morgan said he believed the train was carrying passengers.

Amtrak and the state Department of Transportation have jurisdiction over these tracks, which are located in a rustic area near Pleasant Point Road.

Amtrak police will oversee the investigation; Branford police and firefighters were also on the scene.

The Branford Fire department issued this statement this morning:

“It is with deep regret, we relay news of the sudden passing of Deputy Chief/Deputy Fire Marshal Ronald R. Mullen. Deputy Chief Mullen joined the Branford Fire Department as a cadet member in 1976 and became a member of the career staff in 1981. Over his nearly four decade career, he was one of the most respected Incident Commanders, fire investigators, and educators in the state. Details of arrangements will be forwarded when they become available.”

Branford Professional Firefighters Local 2533 also reacted to the announcement:

“It is with heavy hearts we pass on the news of the sudden passing of Deputy Chief Ronald R. Mullen. D.C, Mullen was a 34 year member of our local and a respected leader and friend. He will be dearly missed. This union, department and community will not be the same without him. Rest easy brother.”

Sally E. Bahner contributed reporting to this story.

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