Dagsboro fire company celebrating 75 years with open house

The Dagsboro Volunteer Fire Department will celebrate 75 years of service to its community with a parade and an open house on Saturday, April 14.

With a signature from Delaware Secretary of State William J. Storey, the fire company was incorporated on March 16, 1943, according to company records. The incorporation papers were signed by Wilson O. McCabe, Cordrey McGee and Truman L. Campbell, all residents of Dagsboro.

Originally the fire company was located on Clayton Street, in the building that now houses the Bethel Center property and is owned by the Bethel United Methodist Church. When the DVFD called the building home, the fire equipment, two engines at the time, was housed on the first floor. Fund-raising dinners and other gatherings were held on the second floor.

Sandie Gerken, Dagsboro’s unofficial “town historian” and Dagsboro native, recalls “Christmas parties and chicken and dumpling dinners” there.

Melvin Rust, life member of the fire company, said the dinners and other events were the company’s “bread and butter” and helped raise money for its operation in the early days. Having joined the fire company in the late 1950s, Rust said he heard about carnivals the department held in earlier years but that those had stopped by the time he joined.

The carnivals, he said, were held on the outskirts of town near the Antioch Church. “They had ferris wheels and different things,” he said.

By 1963, the company had outgrown the Clayton Street facility and a fire house was built on Waples Street. At that point, a tanker had been added to the original two engines. Rust recalled that one of those was a 1953 engine and that his first assignment with the company was attending the “booster hose” on the fire trucks.

Rust recalled that in the early days, there was no state-mandated fire training – the Delaware State Fire School didn’t exist until 1966. Firefighter training, Rust said. “They had what they called a ‘field day,’” Rust said, which were mostly a series of demonstrations of different types of fires and how to fight them.

The fire department started its EMS division in 1972 with the purchase of an ambulance from the Millville Fire Company.

The DVFD remained at the Waples Street station until 2014, when, having outgrown its second home, the company moved into a new fire house. Back on Clayton Street, across from its original location, the new firehouse now includes adequate space for its current equipment – two engines, one engine tanker, one tanker, one brush utility truck, one heavy rescue truck, a marine unit, a dive trailer, a forestry unit, one utility truck, one van, a command vehicle and two ambulances.

“We got a bit more room,” said parade co-chair Wayne Bowden. “(It) helps us get out safely,” he said.

The new, modern station also includes living quarters for its paid EMS staff, which works 24-hour shifts.

The 75th anniversary celebration begins at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 14 with a parade, ending the fire station where there will be a ceremony at 12:30 p.m. Fire companies from the area are sending apparatus to the parade to help Dagsboro celebrate its special day, according to Bowden.

The grand marshal of the parade will be none other than 86-year-old Melvin Rust, life member. Asked how he reacted when he was told of the honor, Rust said, simply, that “well, we did what we had to do.”

Following the ceremony, there will be free hot dogs and hamburgers, provided by – and cooked by — the Boy Scouts – “so (fire company) members can actually enjoy the day,” Bowden said.

The day will also include demonstrations from the Delaware State Fire School inside the fire house, as well as a rescue demonstration in the field next to the fire house.

—Staff Reporter Laura Walter contributed to this article.