Monday, January 2, 2023
Indian River VFC Celebrates 70 Years of Service
Calendar Year 2023 will mark the 70th Anniversary of the Indian River Volunteer Fire Company!
While our fire company has existed for over 70 years, this organization has evolved since the onset of its humble beginnings and has strengthened over the course of these 70 years.
Early in 1953, various residents of the Oak Orchard - Long Neck area became concerned about the traveling distance that local fire companies incurred between the nearest towns of Millsboro, Rehoboth, and Lewes. This distance required substantial waiting time for responding fire trucks and other emergency service apparatus during periods of need. This extended wait period at the scene of an unfortunate incident was the motivating criteria for the locals to pursue the formation of a new fire company to serve Oak Orchard, Riverdale, Rosedale, and Long Neck communities.
Many community members, desirous to be volunteer firemen, donated their time, money, and resources to form the Indian River Volunteer Fire Company. The first meeting of the proposed organization was held at the Indian River Hotel, a very popular entertainment place located on the waterfront in Oak Orchard at the time. Thereafter, regular meetings were held at various gathering places in the immediate area.
In March of 1953, this formation committee filed information with the Delaware Secretary of State to be recognized as a legal entity within the State of Delaware. The required filing fees were $21 and this was the first check ever written by the Indian River Volunteer Fire Company. Thereafter, Granville Hastings was elected the first chief and Raymond Trice was elected the fire company president.
One evening while meeting at Short’s Garage on River Road, a fire broke out in a nearby residence and the persons in attendance formed a bucket brigade and retrieved water from the Indian River Bay. This fire was extinguished without any assistance from nearby fire companies.
Over the years, the fire company expanded in a multitude of ways and this overview is intended to highlight some of these areas of expansion which include, but not limited to, apparatus acquisitions; facility construction and acquisition; incident alert and alarm notifications; membership classifications; and ladies auxiliary.
In April of 1953, the fire company exercised a $50 option to acquire land from Margaret Phillips for $700 and approved the acquisition of a 1946 Dodge truck from C. D. Sapp to operate as a water wagon with the water tank being purchased from the Pure Oil Company for $1. This was the first piece of apparatus acquired and operated by the Indian River Volunteer Fire Company. The second fire truck, a 1926 Reo Fire Truck, was acquired from Rehoboth Beach Volunteer Fire Company for $2 in May 1953. The third truck, a 1942 Chevrolet Truck, was financed in August 1953 by offering $300 down and $35 per month for 30 months (http://irvfc.com/apparatus/detail/22826).
By the end of Calendar Year 2022, Indian River housed and operated two Class A Engine/Pumpers; two marine units; one brush truck; five utility vehicles; one Class A - 2,500 gallon Engine/Tanker; one Class A Rescue/Pumper; one 100' aerial truck; two all-terrian units (ATV); two specialty trailers; one command/duty officer vehicle; and one chief's vehicle. You may view the history of our apparatus at http://irvfc.com/apparatus
Facility Construction and Acquisition
In 1953 and 1954, the formation committee held meetings at Curt Spicer’s Store, immediately south of the current location in Oak Orchard. The first building used to house a fire truck was located on River Road across from Jack Birl’s residence nearby the marshy area between Oak Orchard and Riverdale. The building was a wooded garage that was relocated to this location.
In 1954, the organization committee borrowed money and built our first new building at the current site in Oak Orchard. The initial building was a 30’ x 60’ structure that included two engine bays, a kitchen area, and restrooms. John T. Rogers Construction Company built the structure of $6,500 (http://www.irvfc.com/gallery/detail?id=33407) and the building was paid for within two years (http://www.irvfc.com/gallery/detail/23093). The fire company membership raised funds by hosting dinners, pigeon shoots, oyster ears, carnivals, 50-50s, stock car races at Georgetown Speedway, and numerous other activities. During the summer months, commencing with the 4th of July weekend, the fire company members would conduct door-to-door fund drive campaigns and this would function as our corporate fund drive. The average donation was approximately $2 per household. See Station #1 - http://www.irvfc.com/page/station-one
On Sunday, October 21, 1956, Indian River hosted a mortgage burning event to celebrate the paying off of the building mortgage for then Station #1 in Oak Orchard (http://www.irvfc.com/gallery/detail/23093?ss=1).
In 1964, the Indian River Volunteer Fire Company expanded by doubling its current facility in Oak Orchard from two engine bays to four engine bays (http://www.irvfc.com/gallery/detail?id=25467).
In 1972, the Indian River Volunteer Fire Company constructed a new facility in Long Neck on land donated by James and Audrey Palmer. See Station #2 - http://www.irvfc.com/page/station-two.
In 1984, additional rooms were constructed to the Oak Orchard facility to include a corporate meeting room, storage area, and a recreation room for members. Our Long Neck facility was expanded and renovated in 2000 to include additional bays for firefighting apparatus, a membership gathering area, a small kitchen area, as well as some overnight quarters on the second floor. Our Board of Directors continued to monitor neighborhood growth patterns and encouraged the volunteer firemen to authorize the acquisition of adjacent residential parcels in Oak Orchard and Long Neck for future expansion requirements.
In 2002, our Oak Orchard facility expanded again to include a complete structural overhaul, four drive-thru engine bays, a formal reception hall as well as other amenities.
We currently operate two facilities, Oak Orchard and Long Neck and continue to evaluate options for potential expansion and growth to accommodate our growing fire district needs. You may view our facilities at Station #1 - http://irvfc.com/page/station-one and Station #2 - http://irvfc.com/page/station-two
Incident Alert and Alarm Notification
During the early years of the volunteer fire company, the community residents were required to contact one of three members at specific locations to report a fire or an emergency incident. These locations could activate the fire company sirens located throughout the fire district. These activation devices were located near Short’s Garage on River Road, near Wynikako Avenue and River Road in Riverdale, and one at the fire station in Oak Orchard.
Most of the time these locations had to contact members via telephone to contact firefighters that resided outside of the immediate vicinity of the sirens. During the 1960s, it is believed that a telephone mounted siren was installed at the Oak Orchard station. This siren was refurbished in the 1970s and has been fully operational in Oak Orchard since this time.
It is believed that in the mid-1970s, the volunteer fire company transitioned to a Plectron emergency alerting device that was dispatched via the Sussex County Emergency Operations Center in Georgetown, Delaware. The Plectron device was a specialized VHF/UHF single-channel, emergency alerting radio receiver, used to activate emergency response personnel of an incident within a designated area or fire district. These devices were manufactured by Plectron Corporation in Overton, Nebraska, acquired and placed in homes of first responders for emergency incident notifications.
Today, every firefighter is assigned an individual fire company pager that is activated via the Sussex County Emergency Operations Center to alert fire companies of emergency incidents within their respective fire district. Many active volunteer firefighters have hand-held communication devices to ameliorate our operational efficiency and well as cell phones that count alert of nearby emergency incidents.
Membership – Volunteers
Our primary corporate objective is to assist and protect the citizenry of our immediate community during times of need, which impacts life or property. Our members are volunteers (100%) who contribute their most precious resource – their time to respond to emergencies in our neighborhood. Our firefighters respond to many types of incidents including fire suppression, fire prevention, vehicle and vessel mishaps, tidal flooding conditions, inclement weather conditions, building collapse and medical assist incidents. Our firefighters undergo many hours of intense training to accommodate the demands of these emergency incidents.
Our organization is built upon many attributes that we believe is an integral part of our membership in the volunteer fire service. These attributes include integrity, stability, continuity, independence, and excellence. These attributes are paramount to our continued existence.
Indian River is proud of its historical heritage and intends this passage to highlight and acknowledge our gratitude as well as our appreciation to our residential communities and their residents, our volunteers and their families, our friends and their neighbors, our corporate and community partners, and our our neighboring volunteer fire companies and their families for extending tremendous amount of support and hospitality while shaping our past and creating our future.
Over the upcoming months additional information will be forthcoming regarding this milestone and pending anniversary recognition.
Most of all, the Indian River Volunteer Fire Company wishes it thank our volunteers, community residents, and corporate partners.