Millville Volunteer Fire Company (MVFC) will be dropping their ambulance service to the Bethany Beach fire district as of January 2009, placing the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company (BBVFC) in a pressing situation where they are running against the clock.
With the start-up date for their proposed ambulance service to the district now 10 months away, the BBVFC has been lobbying for support from “the Big Four”: Bethany Beach, South Bethany, Fenwick Island and Sea Colony — the four entities that make up the majority of the population within Bethany Beach’s fire district.
The Millville company, however, is not leaving their former coverage area high and dry, by any means. Volunteers have contributed hours to help make sure Bethany will be able to pick up right where they’re leaving off. And their early notification of the plan to cease service has testified to their willingness to cooperate.
“It’s really a joint effort,” said MVFC Public Information Officer Bob Powell. “We’re all in this together.”
The MVFC took their plan to end service to the Bethany district to the state’s Fire Prevention Committee and made it official in April 2007, easily clearing their required 90-day notice for dropping coverage in their district. The reasoning? Unrelenting development through the Ocean View and Millville area has brought forth a financial and labor demand that the MVFC can no longer support.
“Growth in our area over the past few years has physically taxed us,” said Powell. “Equipment and manpower were the expenses that we were starting to incur. By the latter part of 2005, we knew we were not going to be able to handle those aspects like we once could.”
Hours were spent by Millville firefighters in formulating the expenses that BBVFC could expect to see in taking on such a project.
“We put in a lot of research and made sure we were giving Bethany all of the information we had,” Powell added. “We knew we had to give Bethany the most accurate amount so they knew exactly what they were getting into.”
Some 30 percent of Millville’s ambulance calls in 2006 were responses within Bethany’s fire district, which stretches from the southern state line up to the Indian River bridge and includes everything therein east of the Assawoman Canal, the Assawoman Bay and the Indian River Bay.
“It was obvious something had to be done,” Powell said. “Our department was being stressed with all of the coverage.”
By handing off the ambulance coverage to Bethany, Millville will be ensuring effectiveness through the proximity of both departments, he emphasized.
Although it’s difficult to calculate exactly how much the MVFC would conserve of its own resources in the upcoming years by ending its service to the Bethany district, it will undoubtedly make a significant difference.
“The money that we will generate would benefit people in surrounding districts, as well as our own,” Powell said.
The MVFC’s recurring Texas Hold’em poker tournament, being held again this Saturday, is just one of the many fundraisers the firefighters hold to help support the company’s finances, although money isn’t the only thing to keep in mind in the transition from one ambulance service in the former MVFC coverage area to two, Powell said.
“People need to realize that we’re on a strict timeline here,” said Powell. “Bethany has done a great job picking up the ball and running with it. They’ve practiced some great advanced planning, but people really need to be backing the project, too.”
“Once 2009 gets here, it’s going to still be business as usual,” he added, “just with some coverage changes. We’ll all be working together, keeping it a brotherhood. If Bethany’s tied down with their ambulances and they need help, we’re going to do everything we can to make sure people are being serviced. We’re dedicated to helping everyone. That’s just the way it goes.”