On a scalding-hot day in downtown Milton, the Milton Fire Department celebrated its past, present and future with a July 17 ceremony commemorating the department’s 120 years of service and the opening of its expanded Front Street station – and answered a fire call in the middle of it all.
The updated station is the culmination of a $4.5 million project that built two new vehicle bays and expanded the rear vehicle bay, and added more storage space, a history museum, new locker rooms, overnight bunk space, a fitness room and a new meeting room.
President Brian Reynolds Jr. said, “It’s a monumental day. By upgrading the facilities and amenities, we can better serve the community. It’s more than double the size of our old facility, so it makes things nice and neat, and a lot easier and smoother to get out the door to serve the public.”
The July 17 event included an open house which allowed the public to tour the new station. A proclamation from Delaware’s House of Representatives was read by Rep. Steve Smyk, R-Milton, and Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, read a proclamation from the state Senate, both recognizing the department’s 120th anniversary.
Councilman John Collier said, “It’s really important. The town is growing, the area is growing and this is the indication that the fire company is focused on serving the community.”
During the speeches, the fire alarm went off, and firefighters in their maroon Milton Fire Department polo shirts scrambled to grab their gear and head out on a call. Fortunately, Chief Johnny Hopkins later said the department was serving as backup to firefighters in Slaughter Beach for a water rescue, but before they got there, they were advised that responders at the scene had the situation under control.
“It gives everyone a live-action view of what we do,” Reynolds said.
Milton Fire Department was organized in 1901; fires were relatively commonplace back then, given that most buildings were made of wood. The department was based in several locations over the years, including at one time in the present-day Milton Theatre. Former President Jack Hudson said not long after the department’s organization, the town mandated that new construction be made using brick in order to cut down on fires.
The station on Front Street was first opened in 1950, and it has been renovated multiple times. Hudson said the entertainment at the 1950 dedication was provided by the Glenn Miller Orchestra. In 1981, the building was renovated for the first time, at a cost of $350,000, Hudson said. The newest renovation, completed earlier this year, saw the building completely gutted and rebuilt.
“For us, and the community as a whole, it is important that we are able to grow with the community. Grow in size so that we can have better equipment and house it. And to be more ready, to house our volunteers. We can house our equipment properly and maintain our equipment properly so we can be ready to go on a moment’s notice,” Hopkins said.