Suffolk and Nassau County fire departments tried to smoke their competition on Saturday, Aug. 15, at New York State’s annual Motorized Drill, at Fireman’s Memorial Park in Ridge.
Fifty drill teams competed to earn the title of state champion at the event, which featured eight challenges including the 3 Man Ladder; the Motor Hook and Ladder class B and C contests; the Motor Hose class B and C contests; Efficiency; Motor Pump and Buckets.
While two teams, the Central Islip Hoboes and the West Sayville Flying Dutchmen, were crowned co-champions, the Miller Place Extinguishers didn’t place in the competition. Other local teams like the Selden Slowpokes competed in the event, but they also didn’t place in the competition. The Rocky Point Rum Raiders didn’t attend the event.
The Extinguishers placed sixth in the 3 Man Ladder challenge, but took the 23rd place in the B Ladder challenge. They then came in 29th place for the B Hose and Efficiency challenge. The team didn’t participate in the C Ladder and C Hose challenges, but they came in 14th for the Motor Pump and 28th for the Buckets portions of the competition.
According to Michael Heller of the New York State Drill Teams organization that helps plan the event, the eight obstacles in the competition are similar to those used to train firefighters. Although the competition is entertaining, Heller and Chief Michael Matteo of the Selden Fire Department said that the event helps with teamwork and relationship building.
“When you join a team — a competition team — everyone has their role to play, so they all work together as a team to accomplish the goal,” Heller said. “Firefighters on a team are used to working well with each other, and understand working with each other. Teamwork is critical when you’re in a fire to understand what a person is doing and what to do next.”
These competitions began in the 1800s, according to Heller and Matteo, but Matteo added that there are few places where 40 or more groups of people in New York State can get together, compete and congratulate their fellow competitors for their participation in the event.
On September 6, 1872 the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York was established in Auburn, which led to more organized competitions among the fire departments.
“They started with only the old fashion where it was all pull carts and steam engines and things like that, and then they moved into the motorized,” Matteo said.
The competition was the biggest event that the Selden Fire Department hosted thus far. They have held smaller events for the fire departments in the past, like the Selden Invitational Firefighter’s Drill.
Matteo also said there were around three teams that came back to compete in the Motorized Drill competition, as participants had been lacking in previous years, and few times there were repeat competitors. Additionally, there were around seven teams that could have taken first place after the Buckets challenge, the last part of the competition, but didn’t have as many points as the co-champions, making for a highly-contested day. According to Matteo, this typically doesn’t happen, but said it was nice to see.
“It’s just a great thing for the fire service,” Matteo said of the competition. “Ninty-five percent of firefighters are volunteers, so we’re giving our time when we’re not working one or two jobs. We’re taking away [time] from our families and we’re going out there.”