Community welcome as Dagsboro VFD Station 73 celebrates its 75th anniversary

DAGSBORO – In World War II in the Pacific, the Guadalcanal campaign began.

Top draws in Hollywood and the entertainment world included the likes of Bob Hope, Betty Grable, Bing Crosby and Abbott & Costello.

It was 1943 – the year the Dagsboro Volunteer Fire Department was born.

While its official 75th anniversary date was in March, Dagsboro Volunteer Fire Department will mark its major milestone Saturday, April 14 with a parade through town and activities, festivities and a barbecue at Fire Station 73 on Clayton Street.

“The great thing about numerical celebrations is it provides us time to stop and pause from our present and every day,” said Jason McCabe, DVFD’s vice president. “It gives us an opportunity to remember the past and look back to what folks did. You think back to 1943 and you think of the folks that were sitting around one day in a group and decided that ‘this is what we needed to do for the community.’ The folks at that age, maybe they were just coming back from war or getting ready to go to war to fight in a foreign land, and they also wanted to do so much for the community to start a volunteer fire service. It’s always been a volunteer fire service. No one ever got paid, and still don’t get paid to this day. It has always been for the community’s benefit.”

Dagsboro Volunteer Fire Department is celebrating its 75th anniversary Saturday, April 14 with a parade though town followed by activities, exhibits, demonstrations and a barbecue at Station 73.

The anniversary parade will begin at 11 a.m.  Parade lineup is at 10 a.m. at Indian River High School. The parade route will encompass Main Street – the same route used for the Dagsboro Christmas Parade.

One of DVFD’s oldest members, Melvin Rust, will ride in the parade as grand marshal. Mr. Rust joined the fire service in the early 1950s. Mr. McCabe said.

Parade entries are being accepted up until the day before the event. Hopeful expectations are there will be entries from many surrounding companies and departments as well as a huge turnout of spectators.

“Our older members will be on our apparatus and we will follow up with the younger children of the members, kind of our future” as well as cadets in the Operation GEM program, said Mr. McCabe.

Post-parade celebration heads to the fire station for a free barbecue and exhibits inside the fire station. Outside on department grounds there will be a rescue demonstration and visit by Delaware State Police Trooper 2.

These festivities will follow a short program at about 12:15 p.m. or 12:30 p.m.

Exhibits include Sussex County Emergency Medical Services, Emergency Communications, Delaware Fire School and many others, plus hands-on activities for children.

Around 1:30 p.m., Trooper 2, the state police helicopter will be on site. The rescue demonstration will also take center-stage.

“We’re going to do a mock vehicle rescue drill. It’s open to the public so they can kind of witness what we do in the event that the worst day of their lives occurs, and they need us for what we do,” said Mr. McCabe.

Boy Scouts are preparing the free barbecue: hamburgers, hot dogs, baked beans and potato salad.

“This is free to the public,” said Mr. McCabe, who will serve as emcee for the festivities. “It’s a nice family-friendly affair to celebrate our 75th year and to certainly to give thanks to those that made it possible, which is the public.”

Established as Dagsboro Volunteer Fire Company in 1943, the company initially operated two engine companies out of a two-bay, two-story brick fire house on Clayton Street, not far from the present-day fire station.

Prior to 1943, emergencies in the Dagsboro area were handled by the volunteer fire companies from Frankford and Millsboro.

About 20 years later, with growth in the area and and the growing number of calls for emergency service, a new fire station was built on Waples Street.

In 2013, DVFD made the move to its modern state-of-the-art base on Clayton Street, which houses fire, ambulance and administrative facilities and other amenities.

“We actually originated on Clayton Street,” said Mr. McCabe. “So, we started out on Clayton Street, moved to Waples and moved from Waples back to Clayton Street. So, we kind of came back home.”

Dagsboro’s fire service now includes an Auxiliary as well as Emergency Medical Services staff.

Five paid employees plus part-time personnel provide 24-hour EMS coverage. DVFD has two ambulances, which operate in collaboration with neighboring Frankford Volunteer Fire Company. “We work together with Frankford to offer coverage,” Mr. McCabe said. “We share resources and work together.”

The original fire house structure stands today. It is the Bethel Center, having been renovated for use by Bethel United Methodist Church and community functions. Dagsboro’s town council meetings are held at the Bethel Center.

According to newspaper archives, the newly organized Dagsboro Volunteer Fire Company filed their charter with the Delaware Secretary of State’s office as of 18 March 1943, with Truman L. Campbell as its principal officer.

The current Dagsboro Volunteer Fire Department station headquarters on Clayton Street, not far from the original fire house.

After renovations to house fire equipment, the second floor became a recreation center, complete with a kitchen and was used by the community and the churches as a social hall, according to archives.

The building served as the election polls for state and national elections for years and years.  The Dagsboro Lions Club met there for years.

When the fire company built the Waples Street facility, the building was sold to Bethel United Methodist Church for their education annex. The former Waples station is now utilized for training purposes and community gatherings.

With fingers crossed for pleasant weather, the DVFD hopes for a huge public turnout for their anniversary celebration.

“It provides that time where you can look back and think back and remember and appreciate what those folks did that came before you to provide you with the services that we provide today,” said Mr. McCabe.

Help in finding lost history

The DVFD is seeking information and documents from its early history. According to Mr. McCabe, in the late 1970s or early 1980s, a fire department member lost his house in a fire. Lost in that blaze were numerous paper documents from the department’s early history.

Anyone with any information, photos, documents or archives on DVFD’s history is asked to contact the DVFD.

“We’re pretty thin on attainable and tangible items from our early history,” Mr. McCabe said.


News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at

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