Rehoboth Beach Fire Co. & Their White Trucks

by Dave on March 21, 2010

Part of the “What’s Up With…” series by Fay Jacobs

Frankly, the company has been doing the same thing for 104 years – protecting citizens and property in Rehoboth Beach. And from the incredible support they have from area residents and their remarkably long-term volunteers, they must be doing an A-plus job.

The first thing you notice when you talk with the volunteers is pride – in the job they do and the company they have built. From its flagship station Number 1 on Rehoboth Avenue to its Route One facility, and the facility they share with the Lewes Fire Department on Route 24, this fire company keeps its ear to the radio, eyes on the town and feet to the fire. And there are a lot of them. Fires. But there are even more calls. The company answered over 800 calls last year, between fires, accidents and other emergencies, with their 60 volunteer fire fighters and 9 paid EMS techs. It’s a busy organization, growing busier daily.

To hear 37-year veteran and current Assistant Fire Chief (and former past Chief) Chuck Snyder tell it, just as things are getting busier, finances are getting tougher. With the state cutting back on funding, the company is relying more and more on citizen support. “And we have been very fortunate,” says Snyder. “Our fund drive is still holding its own and it’s the ten and twenty-five dollar checks that make the difference. People are very supportive.”

And so are the volunteers. There are dozens of long-term volunteers, like Rehoboth’s Howard Blizzard, who just was feted for 50 years of active service. That’s some commitment. Other enduring volunteers include Rehoboth’s Leonard Tylecki, Walter Brittingham and Mayor Sam Cooper.

So what about those white trucks? It was 1954 or ’55 that the company traded its signature red firefighting equipment for white. Why? As the Nation’s Summer Capital, Rehoboth thought it should mirror those D.C. monuments like the White House and Capital. “I think they are right for a beach town, too, “ says Snyder.

And they show up in a lot of places here at the beach. It wouldn’t be a Christmas Parade without the RB contingent of trucks, nor would it be a fireworks night or Polar Bear Plunge without our emergency vehicles standing by.

And speaking of fireworks, the company deserves a lot of credit for assisting with the annual display, coordinating the dangerous task of loading the shells and equipment onto the beach and making certain that safety is the first priority of the show.

I had a question for the Assistant Chief. What about that ear-piercing siren that goes off atop Station 1? Don’t the volunteers communicate by more high-tech means these days? It turns out that they do. That siren is only used for very serious situations when all volunteers can be alerted quickly. “I don’t think it goes off more than 50 times in a year,” Snyder says. Well, for folks working in the vicinity, as I used to do, that’s a good thing.

But it’s also a great thing that the Rehoboth Beach Fire Company is always on the job with its dedicated volunteers. Want to help them? Right now there’s a Cash Prize Raffle for their capital campaign – first prize $2000. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the Rehoboth Avenue Station – and while you are there, check out their museum displays and antique fire truck. And say thanks!

This article first appeared in Coastal Sussex Weekly, March 18, 2010.

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