The Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company threw open its doors on Sunday, for an open house and public safety day. Visitors from throughout the area came out to tour the new fire hall, see the company’s fire equipment up close, get a glimpse of the new SkyArm truck in action and get safety tips from a variety of emergency agencies.
There was also food and fun, as the company offered a pig roast with all the trimmings, as well as a celebratory cake, with the sounds of the Back Bay Strummers providing an entertaining backdrop for a unique opportunity for residents of the area to socialize and get to know their emergency responders.
Fire officials offered free smoke detectors and batteries, as well as reminders about the extra care needed with gas or propane cooking or heating. Volunteers from the Bethany Beach Police Department brought out their high-tech fingerprint scanner to scan children’s hands and add their prints to comprehensive child ID cards.
Safety information on bicycle use, seatbelts and child safety seats and nursery safety was offered in abundance, along with some activities for children to learn about safety through coloring books and games.
Members of the Bethany Beach Patrol offered free first-aid kits, as well as reminders about water and beach safety. Police Chief Michael Redmon was on hand to talk with area residents and visitors, as well as show off a police motorcycle and SUV. Emergency medical technicians were available to answer questions about their duties, as well as their ambulances.
The fire company also offered information on its new capital campaign, geared at raising some $2 million to pay off the loan used to build the new fire hall. Those served by the company are being asked to contribute a percentage of their property value to the drive, with the knowledge that the demands on the company have increased in recent years and continue to do so.
At the ceremonial dedication of the new fire hall, company President Bob Webster emphasized those needs, as well as thanking those who had helped organize the event and the construction effort for the new building. Also receiving thanks was Ocean View businessman Bill Reid of Mattresses Unlimited, who donated a wooden model fire truck — valued at more than $2,000 — to the company.
And with a blessing from the company chaplain, the new building was officially opened.
It was likewise a blessing that began the official service of the company’s new SkyArm ladder truck. Firefighters then performed the traditional ceremonial “housing” of the vehicle, pushing the massive vehicle with brute strength into the bay of the new facility for its first official entrance into its new home. With that, the truck was officially brought into service.
The new SkyArm was then brought back out of the building, for an elaborate demonstration of its most notable function: rescuing victims from upper stories where the SkyArm’s long and articulated ladder arm can bring firefighters in close and bring victim and firefighters out safely again.
As visitors watched from the street below, the arm reached up and over the fire hall to deposit two company members on the roof and retrieve a mock victim on a stretcher.
It wasn’t long before the pork was gone, but visitors continued to take advantage of the public safety information and services being provided at the event, as well as taking tour of the new facility and its new ability to house live-in members.
Those six live-in firefighters stay at the fire station rent-free, keeping the station fully staffed on evenings and weekends, despite prohibitive rent and purchase costs for property in the town. The company also now has an exercise room to help members keep in shape for their demanding duties, as well as meeting rooms that finally accommodate all of the members.
A reinforced communications room provides a solid location for responders in the event of a disaster, and even the basic construction of the building provides added safety for the company — finally keeping it free of what was once a regular challenge in street flooding where the valuable equipment was once stored.
The company is hoping that the glimpse at the new facility on June 11 will serve as a solid reminder to area residents when they are asked to donate toward the costs of building it and keeping the company ready to respond to the best of members’ abilities into the future.