The topic was discussed many more times however no action taken. In 1896 a movement was underway by some town’s people who did not like the lake of action by the town council to secure a fire engine, fire extinguisher, and a fire fighter for the town. A petition was hanging in the Post Office.
It was not until 5 years later that the Volunteer Fire Company of Milton as it was called was organized on November 14, 1901. A group of concerned citizens gathered at a home to discuss bringing a chemical fire engine to town to be put on exhibition and force the town council to vote for the fire department. The council had the citizens vote for the purchase of the fire truck and with a vote of 76 to 33 the engine was purchased. To get things started the Milton Town Council elected Charles H. Davidson as Fire Chief and signed up 26 men. Chief Davidson held a meeting to organize the fire department and R. B. Hopkins was named President, Vice President W. H. Stephens, Secretary W. W. Crouch, and Treasurer W. W. Conwell.
A Howe Chemical and Water Fire engine had been purchased for what people thought was an outrageous price of $1,250.00, together with 600 feet of fire hose. The firm from Chicago where Milton purchased the truck had a representative of the company come to town, built a house and filled it with combustibles and set it on fire to demonstrate how the engine will operate. Not long after that the hose cart that is here today was purchased in 1902, a Fire King.
Once organized, the equipment was learned and the Milton Fire Department, Inc. was protecting life and property with their ladies behind them. The Ladies Auxiliary was not officially organized until years later, but the ladies were the backbone of the men then and now. The fire service can not survive without the Ladies Auxiliaries.
On a very dry Friday August 13th morning in 1909 disaster struck the town. Fire was discovered by Wesley Coverdale, the night watchman at the Royal Packing Company. It was about one A.M. The fire was inside the back part of what was called the “Big Store” of Markel and Hartman that was located on the northeast corner of Federal and Front Streets. The alarm was given, the fire engine responded, and the citizens gathered to help the firemen fight the fire. It soon became apparent that it was going to be a big fire as flames gained rapidly and began to spread to other buildings. The Post Office was soon on fire, then C.A. Conner’s Store and the entire lower Front Street into Union Street and down to the bridge. When the “Big Store” fell, S.J. Wilson and Son’s Undertaking and Furniture Company caught fire and nothing could be done to save the whole lower part of the town. Eighteen buildings burned in the business part of the town. At this time Milford, Lewes, and Georgetown apparatus and their town’s people were summoned, but they did not arrive until about 5 AM, many by a special train. By this time it was too late, but the firemen were busy putting out smoldering wreckage, pulling down the brick wall of the Ponder Hotel, pushing over the burned telephone poles, and other dangerous ruins. The sun rose that morning on desolation. The fire hoses were attached to the Ship Maria Thomas continued to throw water on the smoldering fires. That was the name on the ship thatappears on our fire apparatus today. The list of stores and other properties destroyed was Markel & Hartman’s store, W.T. Starkey’s Store, Mason & Davidson’s Grocery, Post Office, the telephone exchange, C.A. Conner’s General Store, Black & Lingo Store, Carey & Darby’s Store, J.H. Walls’ Meat Store, Hall & Stevens Store, Mary E. Field’s Store, First National Bank, te Ponder House Hotel, W. H. Mears: Barber Shop and residence, J.B. Gram’s residence, J. C. Clendaniel’s Meat and Provision Store, and S. J. Wilson & Sons, Funeral Directors and Furniture Store. The devastation covered several blocks and took only 4 hours to burn. There were only two injuries at the fire. One man broke his arm while helping to move the safe out of the Ponder Hotel and another was slightly burned. The estimated loss was $100,000.00 for the 18 buildings.