Oak Bluffs douses the annual firemen's muster
Manny Estrella IV of West Tisbury, and Eric Medeiros and Lee Sylvia of Oak Bluffs, all members of the West Bluff fire department team, man a hose. Photos by Ralph Stewart
Four Oak Bluffs firemen showed up for the annual firemen's muster at Waban Park, Oak Bluffs on Sunday, but one had an injured leg and could not participate and another was called away to deal with a non-fire emergency. That left just two Oak Bluffs firefighters: Kyle Gatchell and Lee Sylvia. But in a spirit of mutual interdependence and friendly cooperation, West Tisbury firemen volunteered to fill in and helped the host department take top honors.
At the Oak Bluffs fire station there is now a handsome congratulatory display to the winners of the West Bluff Fire Department.
Last year, Tisbury firefighters inched out home team Oak Bluffs by a mere half a point to win the annual event. Teams from Carver, Chilmark, Edgartown also answered the call.
Tisbury firefighters Gary Sylvia, Chris Kann, and Joe Tierney race to answer the call.
On Sunday Edgartown, Chilmark and Aquinnah were among the absent.
Antone Bettencourt Jr., Edgartown fire chief, said that with so many demands on department members' time, there simply was no time to prepare for the team competition, but members of the department pitched in to prepare the meal.
Millbury, a town south of Worcester, sent the largest muster team of all.
The sun burned from a cloudless sky as four teams competed: Oak Bluffs, Tisbury, Millbury, and West Tisbury, in that order.
The first event, the midnight alarm, required firemen to rise from a prone position from stretchers, don fire fighting uniforms including boots, helmets, and coats at least twice buckled, run through a framed doorway, unroll hoses and connect them to a hydrant and knock down two targets.
Oak Bluffs accomplished the task in the shortest time, 68 seconds, but a five-second penalty was assessed by the judges, raising their score to 73 seconds, still the best as Tisbury's time was 74.5, West Tisbury 76 and Millbury, which had trouble tipping over one of the targets, 132 seconds.
The second race, called the Firefighter's Challenge, had the firemen knocking down three targets, the third requiring an extra length of hose, then carrying a "victim" from the burning building. Millbury had by far the best score in the event, even with a three-second penalty, at 88. West Tisbury, also penalized three seconds, scored 112.5. Oak Bluffs came in at 119 and Tisbury, which had trouble with water pressure due to a leaky link at the hydrant, scored 133.5.
West Tisbury firefighter Asa Vogt takes aim at a target during the heated ladder climb competition.
The final contest was the ladder climb. A 2.5-inch hose had to be connected to a 1.5-inch hose, then a fireman had to climb a ladder steadied by another fire fighter, lock his leg over the top rung and douse the fire by tipping over two targets. Millbury's 32-second effort was the best followed by Oak Bluffs at 36.5, Tisbury at 41, and West Tisbury at 73.5.
At the conclusion of the muster, a ladies team from Millbury, fully clad in firemen's gear, connected hoses and doused a fire in 35.5 seconds.
Throughout the muster a dozen or so children positioned themselves in the best possible place to enjoy a spray of water and the firefighters were glad to oblige.
Oak Bluffs was declared the winning muster team with 228.5 points. At 249, Tisbury was second. Millbury was third with 252 and West Tisbury fourth at 262.
Former Tisbury Chief Dick Clark and former Chilmark Assistant Chief Stan Mercer were the scorekeepers. Dick Reinhardsen and Charley Thomas were the timers. Active town fire chiefs served as judges: Walter Delaney, Manny Estrella, John Schilling, and Dennis Alley. Jeff Damon was the lively emcee.
Hot dogs and hamburgers and cold sodas were sold in a tent and some handsome muster T-shirts were on sale.