Early Tuesday morning, as school districts were sending out early dismissal notices, Matt Carey, Chief of the City of Dover Fire Department was rounding up volunteers for snow crews for both Fire Station One in downtown Dover and Fire Station Two on Kenton Road.
Snow crews are groups of volunteers, in this case eight at each station, who spend the night on call at the station during bad weather.
"When we get a bad storm we'll get a crew to be here on standby," said Captain Bill Kelly "Being a volunteer fire company we would have to wait for people to come in, with the weather it would take people longer to get here. If you have a snow crew here already you have a faster response."
Kelly estimates that if crews weren't in the fire station response times could be roughly seven or eight minutes longer on snowy nights.
Snow crews at the fire station handle all the duties of a normal day, and then some, Kelly said.
"Calls could range from pipes bursting to regular malfunction alarms," Kelly said.
During incidents like Tuesday's weather, crew members report to the station at roughly 5 p.m., stake a claim on a bed in the bunk room, grab some dinner ̶ frozen pizza was on the menu at Station One on Tuesday ̶ and then spend their night working around the fire station, sleeping or on calls. The fire station is equipped with beds, showers, lounges and kitchens for such occasions.
Some of the members of Tuesday night's snow crew were veterans, like Sean Byron, who has been serving on snow crews for roughly 16 years. Having a crew in the station makes a big difference, Byron said.
"It basically cuts our response time from seven or eight minutes to one minute," he said. "Because of the time it takes them to get the phone call, to the time its dispatched, to the time the pagers go off and people get up and try to fight to bad roads to get here, not counting the fact that the trucks have to go slower to get to where the emergency is."
Working as a firefighter in snowy weather has its own set of challenges, Byron said.
"It's just as hard to drive a car in the snow, if not harder, as it is to drive a fire truck," he said. "Especially when you have a tank full of water behind you, the truck doesn't stop as fast."
Not all of the volunteers in the fire house on Tuesday night were veterans like Byron. Sixteen-year-old Tyler Holloway was on his first snow crew duty.
"I wanted the experience," Holloway said. "I ride the trucks during the day, but I've never been here during a snow storm."
Page 2 of 2 - Several of the volunteers on Station One's snow crew on Tuesday were younger volunteers who are still in high school. Natalie Glascock was one of those volunteers. Glascock had been on a hurricane crew before, but Tuesday was her first snow crew. Working during bad weather can help hone firefighting skills, according to Glascock.
"When you have more of a challenge, like in bad weather, you work harder and then everything just becomes easier.