The Rehoboth Fire Company was organized in 1906 with President Dr. G.H. Riggin; Vice President, F .L. Chase; Treasurer, H. Ralph Dart; Secretary, E.S. Hill; and Chief W.S. Downing. These officers were elected to serve a period of six months.
The Fire Company was re-organized in March 1923 with the following organizers; W. T. Tappen, Dr. W.P. Robinson, R.M. Wingate, Howard Lyell, C.A. Ewing, M.L. Yeager, Harley Paynter, Seton Haynadier, John L. Hudson Jr., Joseph D. McLeak, Robert Yarnel, and George Hunter.
Officers were elected with the following results, President, Harry M. Satterfield; Vice President, E.J. Emmert; Secretary, W.T. Tappen; Treasurer, J.D. McCabe; Chief, E.S. Pettyjohn; and 1st Assistant Chief, J. Fred Hudson. At this time, 31 members were on the roll.
The fire apparatus consisted of a 1923 Model T Ford truck, which was purchased on March 10th, 1923. Additional equipment included a hand pulled chemical apparatus and two hand pulled hose carts. The Ford fire truck was housed in the firehouse (Old Town Hall) located at 43 Rehoboth Avenue. The hand pulled units were housed in a nearby garage.
On March 5th, 1925, a new Reo-4 pumper was purchased with 350 GPM pump from U.S. Fire Apparatus Company of Wilmington, Delaware.
On May 20th, 1925, the present Fire Company was incorporated as the "Rehoboth Beach Volunteer Fire Company Inc." In November 1929, the Fire House (Old Town Hall) was turned over to the Fire Company by the town of Rehoboth Beach. Included in this gesture was all furniture and a donation of $998.50 for a (wing) addition to the building, to house equipment.
In November 1929, a new 1929 Reo-6 pumper was purchased with a 500gpm pump and 80 gallon booster tank. The firehouse (Old Town Hall) located at 43 Rehoboth Avenue was moved to the back of the lot and it faced out onto Baltimore Avenue.
On November 5th, 1930, Lots 43 Rehoboth Avenue, and 44 Baltimore Avenue were purchased. In 1931 a new Fire Hall was built, 48' x 132', two stories facing Rehoboth Avenue. The new firehouse cost $11,400.00 with much of the labor and material donated. Upon completion, the new firehouse was valued at $30,000.00. The old firehouse (Old Town Hall) was sold and moved to 1st Street between Olive Avenue and Virginia Avenue.
A new 1937 Ford 500 GPM pumper was received on July 7th, 1937. The unit was equipped with 300 gallon booster tank. This new pumper replaced the 1923 Model T.
Progress continued, in 1942, a new Diamond T, 750 GPM Pumper with a 300 gallon booster tank was added to the fleet.
In 1945, the building at 43 Rehoboth Avenue was sold. First uses included a bowling alley on the first floor and a surf club (teen dances) on the second floor.
On June 14th, 1945 Lot 69 50' x l00' and a portion of Lot 71, 51'x 100' was purchased from the City of Rehoboth for $2,000.00.
In 1947 the company decided to operate an ambulance for the first time. A new 1947 Cadillac ambulance was donated to the company, by the Rehoboth Beach Kiwanis Club. Most of the funds were obtained by selling chances on the steer.
In the nearly fifty years that we have provided ambulance service, the Rehoboth Beach Volunteer Fire Company has only elected six Ambulance Captains. They are Charles Sanders, Theodore Palmer, Donald Palmer (over 30 years), Allen Quillen, Charles Snyder, and Fred (Sonny) Karl.
In 1947, construction of our new firehouse on Lots 69 and 71 Rehoboth Avenue was completed at a cost of $56,580.00 with again most of the labor being donated by the members. The one story fire hall, 38x80 consisted of two bays to house equipment, a kitchen, storerooms and boiler room. Also included were a lounge, meeting room and recreation room. This huge project was dedicated on October 1st, 1949 after nearly two years of construction.
In 1950, a new 750 GPM Ford/Hahn pumper with 800 gallon booster tank was received and added to the fleet. One year later, a 1951 Cadillac ambulance was purchased to replace the original 1947 model.
In 1953, our 1925 Roe-4 Pumper was transferred to the Indian River Volunteer Fire Company, of Oak Orchard, Delaware for the sum $1.00. On February 13th, 1953, a new Ford Rescue Truck with modern fire and lighting equipment was purchased and placed in service.
On July 28th, 1953, a portion of Lot 71 Rehoboth Avenue, 32' x l00' was purchased from the City of Rehoboth Beach for $1,228.33 for future expansion. This lot was located on the westerly side of the present fire hall.
A new era began on May 28th, 1954 when a new 1954, 1000 GPM, open cab LaFrance pumper with 800 gallon booster tank was received and placed in service as Engine #1. Also on August 4th, 1954, a new Cadillac ambulance was purchased to replace the 1951 model.
Along about this time, Rehoboth Beach had received the nickname as "The Nations Summer Capital." The membership decided that with the new "Title," the capital had the White House and most of the Memorials and Monuments were white. Therefore it was decided all future apparatus of the Rehoboth Beach Volunteer Fire Company would be painted white instead of the traditional red. Quite a dramatic move for the mid-fifties.
On May 9th, 1956, a new 1956 gleaming white 750 GPM Ward LaFrance pumper with a 900 gallon booster tank was placed in service replacing the 1929 Reo-6 pumper.
On August 2nd, 1956, a 25 kw auxiliary generator was purchased to provide electrical power for the operation of the equipment in the fire hall in case of emergency when the regular electric failed.
Our massive apparatus replacement program continued when on June 4th, 1957, a new 1957, 750 GPM open cab Ward LaFrance with 1000 gallon booster tank and 40 gallon foam tank was placed in service. This unit replaced the 1937 Ford pumper and the 1942 Diamond T pumper. The 1942 Diamond T pumper was sold to the Atlantic Fire Department on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
On July 7th, 1957, we took delivery of a new 1957 Cadillac ambulance, which replaced the 1954 model. As a result of the rapidly increasing amount of ambulance calls on October 25th, 1958, we purchased a used 1951 Buick ambulance and operated two ambulances for the first time.
In 1958 construction was started on a 38' x 80' addition to the existing fire hall on Lot 71, Rehoboth Avenue. Once again, most of the labor was donated by the company membership. The one story addition, consist of two bays, to house fire and ambulance equipment, ambulance supplies, shower and bathroom facilities for ambulance personnel and a generator room in the rear of the bays for the 25 kw auxiliary station generator.
On January 14th, 1959, a new Cadillac ambulance was purchased to replace the 1957 model.
As the decade of the 1950's came to a close, it represented massive improvements to our company in both fire and ambulance apparatus and building construction.
During the decade, we purchased and placed in service, four new pumpers, a new rescue truck, four new ambulances, one used ambulance and exactly doubled the size of the new fire hall. The cost of the most recent addition to the hall was $35,695.03
On October 6th, 1960, a new Cadillac ambulance was purchased to replace the 1951 Buick model.
On March 5th, 6th, and 7th, 1962, a massive "Nor-Easter" hit the Delaware Coast causing terrible flooding and destruction. The boardwalk was destroyed along with most of the property and landmarks on the ocean front. The Rehoboth Beach Fire Co. remained in service for over a week assisting with rescue, fire control, security, and evacuation of residents to safe areas.
In November 1962, a general alarm fire destroyed the Avenue Theatre, Avenue Restaurant and Candy Kitchen located on the east end of Rehoboth Avenue. Rehoboth Beach and Lewes Firemen fought the blaze for nearly eight hours.
A new 1963 Ford rescue truck was delivered on March 19th, of 1963 to replace the 1959 model.
On November 20, 1963, a 1943 Studebaker M-29 truck cargo carrier (weasel) was purchased for use as fire fighting equipment on marshes, beach area, and rescue work in flooded areas.
On May 12th, 1964, a new 85 foot Pirsch Pitman Snorkel truck was received at a cost of $55,420.54 to aid in fire fighting activities and rescue work in our city and wherever called. Additional construction in the locality has broadened the scope of our fire company. Through the years the Snorkel has assisted other companies on major fires whenever called to assist. This unit was the first snorkel in the State of Delaware owned by a fire company.
On July 29th, 1964, Lot 67 Rehoboth Avenue (east of existing fire hall) was purchased for future expansion. On August 6th, 1964, a 4-wheel trailer was purchased to haul the M-29 Track Cargo Carrier (weasel).
In February 1966, a major fire swept through the Blue Hen on Rehoboth Avenue. The Farmers Bank and 5 & 10 Store were also damaged. The general alarm blaze was fought by Rehoboth Beach, Lewes, Milton, and Milford Fire Departments with nearly a foot of snow on the ground. The new snorkel was to prove her worth on this fire and many there after.
On April 15th, 1966 delivery was accepted of a new 1966 Cadillac ambulance to replace the 1960 model. On August 7th, 1968 a new 1968 Cadillac ambulance was placed in service to replace the 1963 model. This represented a new change as the new ambulance was two-tone black and white, which would become the trademark of RBVFC ambulances for the next twenty years.
On March 5th, 1969 the company accepted delivery of a new 1969 American LaFrance 1250 GPM pumper with an 800 gallon booster tank. This unit was the first diesel in the company's history and replaced the 1950 Ford/Hahn.
Ten days later the company accepted delivery of a new 1969 GMC 3/4 ton pick-up truck for brush and field fires. The new 4-wheel drive unit was equipped with pump and 180 gallon booster tank.
On March 11th, 1970 the company responded to Ocean City, Maryland to assist the Ocean City Fire Department on a major fire at the Roosevelt Hotel located in downtown Ocean City.
On New Years Eve 1970 all equipment and all hands were sent to assist Lewes Fire Department in blizzard conditions as a general alarm blaze swept through the downtown business district. The RBVFC Snorkel was used to contain the conflagration.
On July 7th, 1970 we received and placed in service a new Miller-Meteor Cadillac ambulance. In May of 1972 we took possession of a second Miller- Meteor Cadillac ambulance each time replacing the older model.
On January 7th, 1972 the Rehoboth Beach Volunteer Fire Co. assisted by neighboring companies fought a general alarm fire that destroyed the former Stockley Van Camp Factory located along the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal in the Washington Heights area of the city.
On April 25th, 1973 the company purchased Lot 65, Rehoboth Avenue (east of existing fire hall) for future expansion. In 1973 a committee was appointed to look into and design a major addition to the existing fire station.
In 1975, marked the completion of our $200,000 two story addition on the east side of the fire hall. This represented the largest single undertaking in the company's history at the time. The new addition included three fire and ambulance apparatus bays, a large kitchen, banquet hall, meeting room, and offices. Efforts by the company members and Ladies Auxiliary holding bingo games for the next decade would pay most of the cost of the new structure.
In 1978 also marked the delivery of a new 1978 Mack 2000 GPM pumper with a hose reel containing 2200' of 5' hose.
1978 brought the first van style ambulance as a new 1978 Ford van was placed in service replacing the oldest Cadillac. A major blizzard in February 1978 placed the company in service several days providing ambulance service to area residents and transportation to Beebe Hospital for area doctors and nurses who otherwise would not have been able to get through the 20 inch snowfall to their assigned duties at the hospital.
February 1979 brought another major blizzard to Rehoboth Beach and again the company was in service several days responding to the communities needs.
On December 19th, 1979 the company fought a major fire in Dewey Beach, which destroyed the Hobo Beach Motel. Neighboring companies responded to assist the RBVFC in controlling the blaze.
In 1980 the company received and placed into service a second Mack pumper. A new 1980 1250 GPM pumper with 1000 gallon booster tank.
1981 brought the second Ford van style ambulance to the fleet replacing another Cadillac.
The company was honored in 1982 when John "Slim" McCormick, longtime company fire policeman was named Delaware's Fire Policeman of the Year by the Delaware State Fire Police Association.
1984 found the company placing a pumper at the residence of then Captain Leonard Tylecki to make it more available to members responding from outside the city limits. The members living in the area of Rehoboth Airport responded directly to Tylecki's residence to man the pumper.
In 1984 another Ford van style ambulance (the third) was delivered and placed in service. This marked the end of an era as the last Cadillac ambulance was removed from the roster. The company with the exception of one used Buick ambulance had traditionally purchased Cadillac ambulances since 1947. The decision was also made to operate three ambulances for the first time. The record would show that the company operated with one ambulance in 1947, added their second ambulance in 1958, and their third in 1984.
The company again received honors in 1984, when Thomas "Tom" Calhoun, a 52 year member was named as Delaware's Firemen of The Year.
During 1984-85, the company was searching for land on which to build second station. Many members now lived outside of the city and experienced delays getting to the Rehoboth Avenue Station do to heavy traffic, especially spring through fall.
In 1985, the company was able to rent an old hanger at the former Rehoboth Airport. A pumper was placed there to begin with and later a brush truck was added. Equipment could only be kept here during spring through fall as the building was without heat.
In 1983 the company received and placed in service, a new 1983 GMC, 4-wheel drive mini pumper manufactured by Alleghany.
The mini pumper is equipped just like her larger counter parts and carries 4" hose complete with deck gun. If necessary, she can traverse the boardwalk where the larger units can not.
The kindness of the community came forth in 1987, after several years of searching for ground, to place a second station. The company received a gift from the Heirs to the Dodd Estate. The gift was a piece of ground located at Route 1 and Route 275-A near the former Rehoboth Airport. The ground valued at $2,000,000 would become the home for Station 2.
The company went before the Delaware State Fire Prevention Commission and was granted approval to build a second station on the site described above.
Shortly afterwards, Mr. Bert Flickenger donated a used metal airplane hanger to the company for use as a second station. The company moved the airplane hanger to the site at Route 1 and Route 274-A. Work began on turning the hanger into a fire station. Once again, most of the labor was donated by members of the company.
1988 brought major changes to our communications system, when at a cost of $100,000, the company went to a new UHF Radio System. All dispatching for fire and ambulance calls were transferred from the Sussex County Call Board to Rehoboth Center located in the Rehoboth Beach Police Station. Although dispatched by Rehoboth Center, all fire and ambulance equipment along with both stations maintain full radio communication with the Sussex County Call Board.
In 1989, the company received and placed into service a new 1989 Spartan/Saulsbury heavy rescue truck equipped with the most modern rescue equipment in existence. The 1963 Ford rescue truck remained in service, until 1993 when it was retired.
In the late 1989, the company responded to McClennenville, South Carolina to assist area fire departments with relief efforts from Hurricane Hugo.
By late 1989, early 1990, after thousands of hours donated by company members, land and hanger donated and $150,000 of company funds, Station 2 was in service and housing part of our emergency fleet. Many years of planning had now become a reality.
In 1989, the company placed two major pieces of equipment in service. A new 1989 Grumman 2000 GPM pumper/tanker with a 1000 gallon booster tank and ten man cab was placed in service and assigned to the Rehoboth Avenue Station. A new 1989 Grumman 2000 GPM pumper/tanker with 2500 gallon booster tank and ten man cab was placed in service and assigned to Station 2 on Route 1. The two new state of the art units replaced the two white Ward LaFrance received in 1956 and 1957. The Two Ward's are now currently serving in the State of Florida.
1991 brought a new 1991 Ford/Mobile Medic box style ambulance into service. For the first time since 1968, the unit was trimmed in blue instead of black.
On January 4th, 1992, Rehoboth Beach was hit with a severe coastal storm, which damaged the boardwalk and several structures. On December 11th, 12th, and 13th, 1992, again our community was the victim of a severe "Nor Easter." As always, the RBVFC members and equipment were out in both storms providing ambulance, fire, and rescue service to the community.
A new 1992 Ford/Collins ambulance was received and placed in service in 1992.
In 1993, the Rehoboth Avenue Station received major modeling including a new roof, new apparatus ramps, and a new front entrance. Housed in the new entrance would be the original fire alarm bell used to alert the volunteers of fire prior to the installation of electric sirens. Total cost of renovations was $135,000.
Also in 1993, the company accepted and placed in service a new 1993 Ford/National box style ambulance. Another era would end as the last of the van style ambulances departed the company roster. All three ambulances were now box style, white in color and trimmed in blue.
In October 1992, the company proudly dedicated our second station (Station 2) located at Route 1 and Route 275-A north of Rehoboth. Heirs of the Dodd Estate, company members and neighboring companies stood proudly by as President Donald Messick and The Building Committee proudly unveiled a bronze plaque in honor of the gift of land from the Dodd Estate, which made Station 2 a reality. From an old airplane hanger, our Station 2 has emerged as an efficient and attractive fire station valued in excess of $350,000.
The RBVFC has hosted the Delaware Volunteer Firemen's Convention in 1927, 1939, and 1969. We have sent two members to the President's Office. Colonel E.S. Stayer in 1951 and Richard C. Mitchell in 1984.
The RBVFC has hosted the Delmarva Firemen's Convention in 1967 and 1973. We have sent one member to the Presidents Office, John "Slim" McCormick in 1972-73.
In 1988 to reduce the amount of times the fire sirens were sounded we went to a "crew call" system. On alarms, of a major nature, the dispatch is done over our radio system only. The company's fire sirens are not activated as the alarm is transmitted over our radio and pager system only. On more serious calls the fire sirens are activated along with the pager system to alert members of the alarm.
The Rehoboth Beach Volunteer Fire Company provides fire and ambulance protection to three incorporated towns. They are naturally Rehoboth Beach followed by Dewey Beach and Henlopen Acres. The communities of Dewey Beach and Henlopen Acres do not have fire companies and depend on the RBVFC.
Other recent additions include in 1983, a new compressor system for the Rehoboth Avenue Station. Also in 1983, the RBVFC became the first fire department in Delaware to go with 3-M Traffic Light Control System. The main bridge coming into Rehoboth was closed and the fire apparatus had to use a detour, which involved going through several more traffic signals. As a result of meetings with 3-M and the Delaware Department of Transportation, all RBVFC equipment and intersections would place the system in service.
The year 1986, brought each member, personal bunker gear, including SCBA personal mask, Pals, and hand lights.
Since 1906, each generation has brought their labor and ideas into the company. May the future members of this organization reflect upon the current members, as the current members reflect upon the past members. The tradition continues.
Story was compiled and written by Louis A. Rickards. With special thanks to Chuck Snyder for assistance and photographs.
Mr. Rickards also noted a thanks to the Rehoboth Beach Volunteer Fire Company for the resources and information to put this story together.
This story was published in The Maryland Fire Dispatch, August 10th, 1993.