BBVFC urged to take over ambulance service

Delaware’s State Fire Prevention Commission sent a letter to the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company last week, urging the volunteer company to provide ambulance service to their district, which stretches from the Indian River Inlet Bridge to the state line, according to Danny Magee, state fire commissioner for Sussex County.

The Millville Volunteer Fire Company has been serving Bethany’s district with ambulance service, under an agreement with the BBVFC, but stressed by a “tremendous amount of development and growth in its own service areas” officials there plan to curtail that service beginning Jan. 1, 2009.

BBVFC officials have not commented publicly on the looming change.

Meanwhile, Bethany officials met with Sussex County Councilmen Vance Phillips (R-5th) and George Cole (R-4th), Rep. Gerald Hocker (R-38th) and Sen. George Bunting (D-20th) to discuss the situation last Friday, according to a few of the parties involved.

Phillips and Hocker said they updated the representatives on the situation but did not request assistance with funding — Bethany’s company does not have an ambulance and local paramedics are paid employees. Funding for fire companies in the area comes through the state, the county, donations and billing for the ambulance service.

“They just have a lot of questions to answer,” Hocker said. “They wanted us aware of what’s going on.”

Magee said that, despite Bethany’s situation, residents in Bethany’s district will not go without ambulance service. Officials would look to other local fire companies, the county’s paramedics department or possibly a contractor if Bethany could not provide service, Magee said.

“Not having ambulance service is not an option,” Magee said. “You can quote me on that.”

The commission is still awaiting a report from a committee it appointed to study the issue.

In a press release issued last month, Doug Scott, chief of the Millville Fire Company, said an influx of calls caused by area growth spurred the decision to cut services to the Bethany district, which includes Bethany Beach, South Bethany and Fenwick Island.

County officials have issued at least 5,700 home-building permits in Bethany, Ocean View, Millville, South Bethany, Fenwick and the adjacent areas since 1990 – more than 3,000 since 2000 alone, according to county records. More homes have been permitted in the county district comprising those areas than any other district since 1990.

According to the Millville company statistics, Millville’s ambulance service responded to 1,806 calls last year — roughly 700 more than in 2000 — 544 of which were in Bethany’s district.

“We are interested in providing a quality ambulance service to all of our citizens currently served; however, this is becoming increasingly more difficult due to increased demands for service,” Scott said in the release. “With all of the development currently under way, and plans on the books for much more, we need to make sure that the citizens of the Millville Fire District receive adequate ambulance coverage.”