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February 8, 2016

Winter Games sharpen firefighters’ skills

GamesJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
A Marathon tug-of-war team competes in the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York Winter Firefighter Games on Saturday at Greek Peak in Virgil. The Marathon firefighters, from right, are Noah Ryan, Austin Fiske, Matt Edward, Aric Ryan with Killawog firefighter Jeremy Byron acting as the tug-of-war anchor.

By TYRONE L. HEPPARD
Staff Reporter
theppard@cortlandstandardnews.net

VIRGIL — Firefighters competing in the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York Winter Firefighter Games did not let the lack of snow get them down. In fact, it forced them to work just a little bit harder during the annual competition at the Greek Peak Mountain Resort Saturday afternoon.
More than 250 firefighters from 12 counties came to participate in this year’s two-day event, which David Quinn, FASNY’s chief administrative officer, said has been going on for 11 years. The games originated in Lake Placid, but moved to Cortland about eight years ago.
On Saturday, the firefighters broke up into groups of five or so members. Most teams comprised members of the same department, but several teamed two or more. Firefighters competed in a tubing race, a sled pull, a hose relay race and a tug-of-war competition.
On Sunday, the teams moved the to the J.M. McDonald Sports Complex for a broomball competition, a game similar to hockey, but with brooms and boots.
The events are fun, but help to keep the firefighters in shape and their skills sharp.
“Some of this stuff has practical application to what we do every day on the fireground,” Quinn said. “It helps out with their training, good communication skills ... and teamwork. And the weekend provides an outlet for them to come and relax and have a little fun.”
As he spoke, the hose relay race was under way, where teams tried to assemble a 50-foot-long fire, dressed in full turnout gear. The event took place during lunch time, so participants were being cheered on by their peers grilling on the sidelines.
Killawog firefighters Matt Holbrook and Mackenzie Pendell were hanging out with the members of the Marathon Fire Department. Holbrook was competing with his department, but Pendell had decided to compete with members of the Marathon Fire Department, which was short a member for the hose relay. Connecting the hose did not go as smoothly as intended.
“We had one penalty,” Pendell said. “It was still fun though.”
Holbrook said the bragging rights and friendly competition keeps him coming after seven years.
“It’s just kind of like a tradition now,” Holbrook added. “Probably the biggest rivalry is between us and Marathon, but we’re only two miles apart so we always work together, anyway. When it comes to this... it’s all good.”
Cincinnatus Fire Capt. Devan Bellefleur with firefighters Mearland Rice and Pete Szabelski were finishing up the hot dogs they grilled near their truck in the parking lot. Some of the firefighters had attended the games more than others, and everyone agreed with Rice when he said getting a chance to meet firefighters from across the state is a good reason to come back.
“It’s just nice to come out and get everyone together and have a fun time,” Bellefleur said.
“It’s a blast,” Szabelski added. “It keeps us all together, it keeps us young. It keeps the firefighter brotherhood and sisterhood together.”
A couple of vehicles down, Branchport/Keuka Park firefighter Denise Slocum was catching her breath, but not because of the hose relay. She and her all-female team had already participated, so to pass the time, they decided to challenge Vernon Fire Co. to a dancecompetition.
Slocum said she and her family try to attend the winter games every year. That’s because everyone in her immediate family is a firefighter, including her husband, George, and her son, Corey.
“I come from a family of firefighters. I’ve been a firefighter since I was 13,” she said. “It’s a family thing. It’s in your blood.”

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