MILLSBORO — Residential and business growth is expanding fire service to the western side of town.
The Millsboro Fire Co. has plans for its first substation, at the corner of Del. 24 and Lewis Road. It is just outside town limits, not far from the Plantation Lakes community.
“It is an existing property that has an attached garage that we are looking at to use as a temporary substation at this particular time,” said Millsboro Town Councilman Ron O’Neal, who also serves as the fire company president, during council’s meeting Monday. “We are in the process of purchasing that piece of property. We’ll have a substation. It’s right at the edge of Millsboro. It is not in Millsboro town limits, but it is right at the edge of the primary annexation area.”
Currently, Millsboro Fire Co.'s sole facility, Station 83, is located at 109 E. State St. on the eastern side of the town.
Traffic congestion throughout Millsboro can hamper fire service response time, particularly when answering calls on the western side of U.S. 113.
“We look at an eight-minute response time from the time the alarm is sounded to the time we respond. We like to keep it below that eight minutes. That is kind of a mark set by the fire prevention commission. In order to do that, sometimes, we are pushing that eight-minute mark because we are waiting for guys and gals to get from the west side of the highway to the firehouse, even if we have (to) turn around and the call is on the west side,” said Councilman O’Neal.
“We’ve got a real good (number) of members, responders. But they are split, some on the east side of the highway and some on the west. And trying to get across that highway — especially on the weekends — is a tough situation. It becomes a nightmare. It becomes a hassle,” he added. “It will give our guys and gals a little bit better response time on that particular side of the highway. So hopefully that will help us out.”
Councilman Larry Gum is the fire company’s public information officer.
“It is becoming more and more difficult. We have a lot of volunteers live on that side,” he said. “I think it would really help us, basically for the safety for the volunteers getting into the emergency apparatus.”
Thus far, the fire company has cleared one of two required obstacles on its way to opening a substation.
“One of those is through the Delaware State Fire Prevention Commission, in order to get a temporary permit for a substation, which we have done. That has already been issued,” said Councilman O’Neal. “We’re working on some zoning issues now through Sussex County Planning & Zoning. It is (zoned) AR-1. We are looking at AR-1 with a conditional use for a public service or a fire service station there. I know Ellendale was set up that way. Slaughter Beach, their substations are set up that way. We don’t think that that’s going to be a hurdle.”
Mayor Michelle Truitt noted support from residents in the proposed area.
“That is one of the processes that we had to go through in order to go through the fire prevention commission, to kind of get some support from that side of town,” said Councilman O’Neal. “Yes, we’ve got a lot of support.”
The substation is most likely going to be temporary.
“We are purchasing it with the possibility of, three or five years down the road, we may find that there is another spot for a substation on the east side of 113. Millsboro is growing by leaps and bounds. We may decide a couple years down the road that maybe that is in a bad spot, and we really need it up north, or we need (it) to the east side. Or we may find out that is the perfect location for it,” Councilman O’Neal said.
The Millsboro Fire Co. has also eyed another parcel, a 1 1/2-acre piece of property, also close to U.S. 113, that is somewhat zoned for fire and emergency medical services.
“But we feel, right now, we can’t wait for a number of years for that to be developed,” Councilman O’Neal said. “So this piece of property outside of town is going to serve us as a test run.”
Station 83 was transformed from a multipurpose structure that, throughout its history, had served as the mayor’s office, police headquarters and town offices. The banquet hall and apparatus bay was built in 2000-01, he said.
The substation will house fire company equipment to be determined. There would be no fire service staffing there.
“It would basically (be) a place where there will be apparatus, and when the alarm sounds, those that live on that side of the highway or closest to that particular … location (would respond),” said Councilman O’Neal.
“I think the community is excited about it,” he added. “The main goal here, a couple things, is to make sure that we respond in a good time frame and to keep our members safe but to also make sure that we serve the community the best possible way we can in providing these services. We think that will happen with this substation.”
The fire company hopes the substation will be operational in several months.
“I am really hoping we can see it before the end of this year and hopefully sooner than that,” Councilman O’Neal said.