Fire fighters go head to head in competition

By DeeAnna Haney | Aug 22, 2014

Firefighters from across the county went head to head in friendly competition during an annual event at the Haywood County Fair.

Being a firefighter is so much more than just squirting water on a fire — it can be an extremely rigorous and physically demanding job. One of the goals of the competition is to display some of the physical activities that fire fighters must be prepared to do when they are called to a fire.

There were team and individual competitions in the battle for the "leather bucket," which is the trophy the winning team takes for display and bragging rights at their department each year.

Saunook Fire Department performed the best overall this year, taking home first place in both the team and individual competition. Center Pigeon Fire Department took the bucket in 2012 followed by the Waynesville Fire Department in 2013. Though the departments take the competition very seriously, it's really all in good fun, said Waynesville Fire Chief Joey Webb.

"It's good training for the guys. They practice ahead of time and they get the opportunity to have a little bit of fun competition at the same time," he said.

The individual competition timed one firefighter from each team as they went through a rigorous obstacle course, beginning with a 150-foot run carrying all their gear, which weighs in at about 70 pounds. They were then required to quickly put on all their gear, which includes boots, pants, jacket, helmet and a breathing apparatus.

Competitors flipped a large tire, dragged a 250-pound dummy, rolled up a water hose and then carried several 40-pound buckets of water for a "bucket brigade." To finish, they ran the 150 feet back to the fire truck.

The competition shows some of the ways fire fighters must train Webb said.

"At a moment's notice, you go from zero to 60 in an instant," he said. "That's why we strive to be physically fit."

Bill Miller, assistant director of emergency management for the county, said one of the more challenging aspects of the competition is dragging the nearly 250-pound dummy.

"Dragging somebody is one of the hardest things you'll ever do because it's just dead weight," he said.

The competition was a first-time experience for Joseph Massie, a firefighter at Saunook Fire Department.

Wearing all of the bulky gear and breathing through the oxygen mask made the competition even tougher, he said.

"The bucket and barrel fill-up at the end was the worst," Massie said. "I about came out of my boot in the mud. It takes everything you have at the end like that but it makes crossing that finish line feel like such a relief."

Greg Shuping, director of emergency management for the county, pointed out that most firefighters in the county volunteer their extra time to the job.

"Most of them have other jobs — some of them with another part-time job on the side, so it can be very difficult for them to balance health and wellness against a full time job," he said. "Then, on top of that, they have to train hundreds of hours a year to be prepared as a fire fighter. It's just an awesome task."

In the individual competition, Ben Hooper from Saunook Fire Department won first place with a time of 4 minutes and 57 seconds. Aaron Willis from Fines Creek Fire Department came in second, Marvin Freeman from Saunook Fire Department came in third and Ross Escobodo from Cruso Fire Department came in fourth.

The Saunook Fire Department Team No. 1 won the team competition by seven seconds with a time of 5 minutes and 5 seconds. The team consisted of Joseph Massie, Ben Hooper, Marvin Freeman and David Freeman.

The Clyde Fire Department team, including Trey Silver, Jacob McCracken, Ryan Adams and Lloyd Messer, came in second. North Canton Fire Department came in third with team members Greson Sluder, Cody Worley, David Blackburn and Brandon Burgess. The Waynesville Fire Department took fourth place with team members Ricky Mehaffey, Travis WEbb, Brad Maselbas and Ben Buchanan.

Other teams that competed were from Junaluska and Fines Creek fire departments. The Haywood County Rescue Squad assisted the teams.