Dagsboro celebration salutes fire service past, present and future

DAGSBORO — Few people on hand Saturday for Dagsboro Volunteer Fire Department’s 75th anniversary celebration were there for the birth of the town’s fire service.

Melvin Rust was. The 86-year-old Dagsboro resident joined the fire service in the 1950s when it was based in its first firehouse home, a two-story brick building that is now the Bethel Center on Clayton Street.

“There is a lot of water run under the bridge and a lot of the older boys, they are all gone that I knew,” said Mr. Rust. “Things do change. It started with two engines. And now they built this one, so they are advancing. With the population the way it is down here you have to keep up with the times.”

Saturday, Mr. Rust was grand marshal for the anniversary parade that preceded festivities, a tributes/proclamation program and a vehicle rescue demonstration.

“Folks, 1943 was a long time ago, 75 years to be exact,” said DVFD Vice President Jason McCabe, emcee for the anniversary program. “Many of us don’t even remember that far back. World War II was in full swing. D-Day wasn’t a thing yet; it was still being planned. And all that time members of the community decided that they could do more. There was more that could be done to serve their community and their citizens and their neighbors. Those men decided to come together and on March 16, 1943 formed the Dagsboro Volunteer Fire Company. It was a company at that point in time; since then we have changed to department.”

The fire company moved in 1963 to a new facility on Waples Street. In 1972 Dagsboro launched its Emergency Medical Services program with the purchase of an ambulance from the Millville Fire Company.

After about 20 years at the Waples Street, DVFD christened its new complex on Clayton Street. It houses a small platoon of tankers and engines, other specialized apparatus and two ambulances, plus living quarters supporting paid EMS staff for 24-hour shift coverage.

It is that original call to service that “still brings us to the fire house to this day,” Mr. McCabe said. “What vision they had to put in place the bedrock of an organization that is what you see around you today. Men and women that are in uniform, and in red shirts are here today because of what those men did in 1943.”

Dagsboro Mayor Brian Baull in the town’s proclamation noted that since 1943 DVFD members have given thousands of hours of dedicated serviced to the residents and visitors of the town of Dagsboro, from fighting fires and rescuing accident victims to holding community events and fundraisers.

“Members have provided an immeasurable service to the benefit of the town of Dagsboro,” Mayor Baull said. “We do want to say congratulations. These are the men and women we interact with every day. They are our friends. They are our neighbors. And when that alarm goes off they are out of bed at all hours … and sacrifice a lot of time spent away from family friends.”

Tributes and presentation included those from Delaware’s General Assembly, Sussex County Council, Indian River Volunteer Fire Company, Memorial Company, Delaware State Fire Marshal’s Office, Selbyville Volunteer Fire Company, Sussex County Firefighters Association, Mountaire Farms and neighboring Frankford Volunteer Fire Company.

“I go out of my way to be a good friend to our volunteer fire companies,” said State Sen. Gerald Hocker, whose senatorial district encompasses eight fire companies/departments. “I thank them each and every one for all they do, all the many hours.”

“I truly want to thank not only the Dagsboro fire company, but every fire company for the selfless dedicated service you give,” said State Rep. Rich Collins. “When I sit in my house, I’m not too far from the whistle, and I hear that thing go off in Millsboro at 2 or 3 in the morning, I say to myself, ‘Gee, I am glad there is somebody willing to jump out of their bed and go take care of that.’”

Rep. Collins saluted fire companies, fire police and ladies’ auxiliary. “In all of these small communities the fire organization is like the center of the whole town,” he said.

“We appreciate everything everybody does for the fire service,” said DVFD President Al Townsend.

Robbie Murray, president of the Frankford VFC, shared the special bond Dagsboro and Frankford share.

“I would challenge any two fire companies to look at each other and find two companies that work closer than the Dagsboro Volunteer Fire Department and the Frankford Volunteer Fire Company. We have worked close hand in hand for the last 75 years and most recently over the last 25 to 30 years we started a program with dual response,” said Mr. Murray. “We recognized that individually it was going to be a challenge for us to keep up with the growth and the call volume, but by working together we could provide that service to both towns because of that close proximity. We started a dual response with the ambulance and we started a dual response with the fire apparatus. We have certainly had our ups and downs, but we were committed. We were committed to providing the best service that we could to two towns that are only separated by a couple of miles. Last year together Dagsboro and Frankford from EMS side covered 1,100 calls. We did that without missing a beat.”

Scouts and scout leaders from Dagsboro-based Boy Scout Troop 382 prepared a free family barbecue that served several hundred. Scouts also took care of tear down and clean-up at the conclusion of the event.

“When we were planning for this, we didn’t want members to have to work,” said DVFD member Wayne Bowden, chairman for the anniversary event. “We wanted them to enjoy their 75th (anniversary). It was just wonderful these young men are here today.”

Mr. McCabe encouraged people to consider joining the volunteer fire service. “Every ounce you give it gives back to you,” he said. “There is truly no better calling than to serve the community that surrounds you, to serve your neighbors … to serve folks you don’t even know.”

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