In response to COVID-19, the Rehoboth Beach Volunteer Fire Company has modified how it will respond to fire and emergency calls.
In a letter issued April 5, Rehoboth Fire Chief Chuck Snyder said Rehoboth will dispatch only Rehoboth crews to calls within the Rehoboth district. Multiple companies will not be dispatched on the initial dispatch, he said.
Snyder said the modification is temporary, and if assistance is required, the officer in charge will notify the Rehoboth dispatch center.
The letter was sent to the Rehoboth Beach and Sussex County dispatch centers, and the fire chiefs of the Lewes Fire Department, Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company and the Indian River Fire Company.
“We appreciate all of the help that you have provided and hope that will continue,” said Snyder in his letter.
In an interview April 30, Snyder said as chief, he decided unilaterally to make the change, which he said is in the best interests of the safety and wellbeing of his members. Now is not the time to be running more vehicles than necessary, he said.
“We’re just trying to practice as safe a response to calls as we can, without unnecessary exposure,” said Snyder. “We’re always running into so many unknowns. We will still be putting out fires.”
Snyder said a lot of calls Rehoboth receives are false alarms or minor issues that do not require help.
“We don’t need three companies for a smoking socket,” he said. “We will call companies for help when needed.”
Snyder said for the most part, Rehoboth hasn’t required the help of other companies, and he said, for the one big fire that occurred since the change – the Lighthouse Restaurant in Dewey – it wouldn’t have mattered if other companies were called during the initial reporting. the fire was well underway when the first truck from Rehoboth pulled up, he said.
Snyder said other changes have also been implemented. He said fire houses are off limits to members unless there’s a call, and then afterward members have to leave as soon as reports are filed. If there’s a car accident, unless it’s an emergency that needs immediate help, the crew will wait for the EMS team to show up.
For now, Snyder said, the call volume is down from years past. He said he has no specific reason for the drop, other than there are fewer people around, and, he said, he thinks people are taking more precautions.
According to statistics on the fire company’s website, through April 30, there had been 101 fire and 473 EMS calls in 2020. In 2019, there were 617 fire and 3,652 EMS calls; in 2018, there were 642 fire and 3,488 EMS calls; and in 2017, there were 612 fire and 3,433 calls.
Snyder said he’s recently had a good response to calls because a lot of his members are unemployed because of COVID-19. He said the company is also able to respond faster because there’s less traffic.
“That will change, and when it does, our procedures will go back to normal,” he said.