More than 20 fire apparatuses made their way through the streets of Dagsboro this past weekend. No, there wasn’t a fire — the Dagsboro Volunteer Fire Department was celebrating its official station change, from their former Waples Street location to their new state-of-the-art facility on Clayton Street.
“It’s a milestone for us,” said DVFD President Al Townsend. “We left the building that we were in for 50 years. We’ve got to thank the membership, because 30 years ago they decided to start putting money away to help fund the building because they knew our community was going to continue growing.”
“It’s been a long time coming,” added Lin Hudson, lifelong Dagsboro resident and past president of the DVFD, with 40 years in the department and having served on the building committee. “We’ve been sticking back and saving for a long time because we knew we were outgrowing the old building.”
At the new facility, a memorial that was relocated from the Waples Street facility sits outside and reads, “In Memory of All Who Served.”
“The new placement of the memorial allows for viewing by many more visitors and is the focal point for our entrance on Clayton Street, “said Bill DeHaven, who blessed the new building. “Just as the Maltese Cross on our emblems signifies service to our fellow humans, the memorial we dedicate today serves as the one place where those left behind can be renewed in their remembrance.”
When first entering the building, visitors are greeted with a hand-painted mural of the DVFD shield. Soon, a trophy case will be installed, displaying the department’s parade trophies and tournament awards.
The new facility boasts offices, a conference room, fitness room, training and meeting room, members’ room, kitchen area, bunkrooms and more.
“Before, all the administrators and line officers were basically working out of one room or their home. Now we have the capability — everything is staying in-house,” said Townsend.
The facility also has a separate ambulance bay and administrative office for the EMS staff. Secretary Matt Gajdos said that 80 percent of the department’s total call volume is EMS calls.
“We have a dual ambulance service with Frankford. That helps us both save money, because we don’t have to both hire so many employers,” explained Townsend. “We still give both communities 24 hours of coverage, seven days a week.”
In building the new facility, Townsend said the committee looked toward the future, as opposed to only what the department currently needed.
“When we built the building, we tried to look to the future. So we didn’t build what our immediate needs are right this year. We tried to look down the line and plan for expansion,” he said. “We realized we needed to build ourselves a facility that would prepare us to meet that need down the road. We have the infrastructure in place to meet the growth in the years ahead.”
“There’s other apparatus that we’re going to need in the future, and the old building would not house that. We were pretty tight with everything we had,” added Deputy Chief John Marvel, a life member with 22 years in the DVFD.
Marvel echoed Townsend, stating there was a great deal of work involved in planning and designing the new building.
“The whole membership worked together,” he said, adding of the building committee, “They worked their butts off to get this taken care of. We’re just tickled to death. Two months shy of being 51 years serving in the old firehouse, and here we are today, for many, many years to come.”
Designing a sustainable facility was paramount to the department, said Gajdos.
“The new building that was something that our building committee did a good job with,” he said. “We knew that our building was going to take up a lot of space... and it’s all concrete, it’s going to have a bit of an impact on the environment — so we tried to make it as green as possible.”
Gajdos added that the geothermal technology used will save the department in the long run.
“We tried to implement as many cost-saving devices as we could. Even if it costs more in the short term, in the long-term they’re going to save a lot of money.”
“This building is state-of-the-art; we went all geothermal. We tried to be as green as much as possible,” added Townsend.
Hudson said the fire department was able to afford the new facility through fundraisers, donations and financial help from the State and County.
“It all comes together. This year, you don’t buy that, and if we can put it off for two or three more years and save the money, see what kind of interest you could get on it. That’s the way it was done.
“We’re proud of the whole building,” he added. “When I first joined, I never thought we would have this much equipment and need this much equipment.”
Gajdos said the department doesn’t have any plans to buy new equipment, but the administration is looking into the community’s growth when planning for the future.
“We’re seeing more year-round versus seasonal,” said Gajdos, noting that the DVFD not only covers the town of Dagsboro but unincorporated areas of Sussex County, as well. “The bay area does allow us room to grow if needed,” he added of the new station. We have tall engine bay doors — that way, if apparatus get bigger, we aren’t stuck with a smaller building and stuck having to do changes. Through our planning, we can adapt over time and we don’t have to incur any additional expenses over time.”
“We just want to serve the public the best that we can,” noted Marvel. “We just want to be able to serve the community faster and safer.”
Marvel said the fire department is a family, and he’s happy to see the new facility completed in his lifetime for future generations.
“I’ve got a 12-week-old son, and I’m hoping and praying he follows in my footsteps,” he said.
Dagsboro firefighter Reed Carter, a 27-year-old Dagsboro resident, said that the new building has been “long awaited.”
“[It gives us] the ability to serve your community in a more efficient manner with the space allotted,” he said.
Carter joined the department when he was in high school, as a junior member.
“I wanted to help,” he said. “I was 16 years old and it was a hobby — it was something to do while you’re in high school. So, instead of sports, I decided to join the fire service.”
Carter said there is a special brotherhood among firefighters, akin to those who serve together in the military.
“You always remember the people that you’ve lost, and you always keep the people that you’re with safe,” he said.
The fire department will now be responding to emergency calls from the new facility on Clayton Street; however, Gajdos said the move is not yet complete, as files and other incidentals still need to be moved. Townsend added that a community open house for the new facility will be held in the fall.
Gajdos emphasized that the Dagsboro Volunteer Fire Department has received a tremendous amount of community support, and that the department is especially grateful to its old and new neighbors.
“We are thankful for their patience,” he added. “We are very thankful for our families overall for their patience and understanding in helping this project move forward.”
Gajdos said it’s an amazing feeling to finally see the facility come to fruition after so many years of planning and hard work.
“It’s like that dream that you have in the back of your head, where you keep saying, ‘I’d like to have that one day,’” said Gajdos. “You worked for it, worked out what didn’t work toward it and, finally, one day, finally see it move toward becoming a reality. Today, we met reality.
“We’ll continue to meet the need that’s asked of us, and we look forward to continuing to serve our community,” he added.