Town staff first on the scene in Selbyville house fire

Four Town of Selbyville employees were among the first on the scene of a West Church Street house fire on Wednesday, Sept. 20.

The call came in just after 9 a.m. Police Chief Scott Collins and Cpl. John Bunting were on duty, as were Town staff members Kevin Murray and George Hudson. They ran over and found resident Delbert Baker already on the scene.

Baker said he had been doing yardwork when he smelled and saw fire in a neighboring house. Having retired after 30 years with the Ocean City (Md.) Fire Department, he hadn’t hesitated to report the blaze then run over to the house.

The duplex contained two-story apartments. The fire was mostly contained to the upstairs of the rear apartment, Collins said. But downstairs, in the front of the house, one family (and their dog) had no idea that the back side of the structure was in flames. Baker got them out the door.

Fortunately for all involved, the burning room was unoccupied, although the first responders had originally believed that people were upstairs. But they couldn’t verify that, because the flames and smoke on the staircase were too thick.

Then the Selbyville Volunteer Fire Company’s first truck arrived. One fireman “grabbed the fire hose off the back of the truck, handed it to me and said, ‘Go,’” Collins said. So he aimed the hose upstairs and went to work. A passing Delaware State Police trooper jumped into the fray, too. Several other fire companies responded as well.

“We hit it quick. That was key, because the fire was contained to one room,” Collins said.

While no one was injured and damage to the front of the house was minimal, the fire and water damage resulted in a complete loss for the second family living in the structure, who were at work and school when the fire started in their half of the house. The Red Cross and their schools have been helping the family get back on their feet.

“It wasn’t like it was burnt — everything was just completely soaked. We had water running out the front door,” Collins said.