May 22, 2013
A Short History
On November 14, 1901, a group of concerned citizens met in the Seaford Town Council room for the purpose of discussing the organization of a fire company. By the end of the month, over 50 persons had volunteered for the fledging organization. The company was formally named the Seaford Volunteer Fire Department and was basically located at the foot of Pine Street. W. H. Miller, the freight agent at the railroad, was elected president, and E. M. Scott, the town’s blacksmith, was chosen to be the first chief. Seaford’s was the state’s thirteenth organized fire department, outside of Wilmington, and the third in Sussex County, following Lewes in 1796 and Laurel in 1899.
The first fire was fought December 18, 1901, in a High Street building next to the handsome residence of William Ross, a wealthy property owner who had been an opponent of the town’s water and sewer system. Damage to the building was estimated at $375, more than half the value of the building. Mr. Ross was so affected by the prompt action of the company and the fact that the fire occurred without adequate water to protect his own home, that he sent a letter of apology for his opposition to the department and a check to help defray expenses for new fire fighting equipment. To fight that first fire the only equipment the department had assembled included some hose which was carried on a cart with huge wheels that had to be trundled by hand from the foot of Pine Street to wherever the fire might be.
During the early years, the department’s equipment consisted mainly of ladder trailers and hand-drawn hose reels. With the donation from Mr. Ross and help from the legislature and the town, the firemen expanded gradually from their original location on Pine Street Hill to a 2 story brick building located on King Street, which was close to the standpipe which had been erected as part of the water system. It is believed that this building was completed around 1905. The present structure was completed in 1950 and expanded in 1972 and renovated in 2007.
The first motorized vehicle was a new Seagraves engine, purchased in 1921, after the town bonded itself for $10,000. The truck arrived by freight car, a white pumper with solid rubber tires. In those days pneumatic tires were undependable and the firemen did not wish to respond to the station to find flat tires on the engine. But they found out that solid tires had there problems, as when they were called to a fire in Pocomoke City on a very hot day and had the solid rubber tires melt on the hot highway causing them not to get to the fire. After this pneumatic tires were installed. When called to fires in Blades the engine had to cross the rickety bridge that separated the two towns. It was deemed dangerous for the engine and crew of fire fighters to cross at the same time. So, when responding to fire calls in Blades one driver drove the engine over the bridge and the rest of the crew walked over, got on the pumper and continued to the fire. The engine responded to hundreds of fires before it was retired. This is the oldest piece of S.V.F.D. motorized equipment still in existence and is housed in the Seaford Fire Museum along with the department’s second oldest engine, a 1948 Seagraves. The Seaford Fire Museum is located in the 400 block of High Street and displays fire memorabilia related to the history of the Seaford Volunteer Fire Department Inc.
In those early days, members of the department were expected to be at every fire. If a fire was missed and no solid excuse was forthcoming, the volunteer was fined 50 cents. The same fine was levied if a meeting was missed and for speaking in a disrespectful manner to a department officer. Smoking or use of alcohol during a meeting resulted in a $1 fine or expulsion from the department.
The department formed a “First Aid Squad” in 1933, and purchased the first ambulance in 1934. Today the department has two ambulances with paid ambulance attendants, four tanker pumpers, a rescue truck, a brush truck, a rescue boat, a command vehicle, a utility van, and a 100 foot platform aerial truck.
In November 2001 the Seaford Volunteer Fire Department Inc. celebrated 100 years of service to the Seaford Community. From July through the middle of November numerous events were held to commemorate this milestone.
Delaware State Archives
Seaford Leader & State Register
- Thursday, November 22, 2001; article by Wright Robinson
- Thursday, November 29, 2001; article by Wright Robinson