The volunteers who respond to coastal Sussex emergencies share a burning desire to serve the community. But they face a growing challenge: development.

By Chris Beakey
From the August 2018 issue

feature-firefighters Bonds Forged in Fire - Delaware Beach LifeThe oceanfront house on Sand Dune Drive, like many in the off-season, was empty when it caught fire in the early morning of March 13. Chuck Snyder, chief of the Rehoboth Beach Volunteer Fire Company, was roused from sleep by the dispatcher’s call at his home just east of Route 1 at approximately 3 a.m. The eastward sky was already glowing from the blaze when he crossed the canal bridge five minutes later.

By the time he arrived, the fire had spread to a second house, the brisk northeast winds off the ocean feeding flames that devoured walls and roofs and virtually everything else in their expanding path. Sirens screamed through the air as 16 local fire companies responded, their trucks loaded with 120 men and women pulled from their beds in the middle of the night.

The sun was rising behind dense gray clouds when the firefighters finally extinguished the blaze. Dazed by the physical toll this work had taken on their bodies, and with blackened faces and the stench of toxic smoke clinging to their gear, they returned to their stations and the arduous task of cleaning up. For most, the day was just beginning as they headed out to their “regular” jobs, exhausted but gratified by their efforts to keep the area’s beach communities safe.


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