U.P. fire crews blast through 120th annual Firefighters Tournament

Granted, it usually doesn’t start with a gunshot, but these brave men and women are used to being ready to fight fire at moment’s notice. Although there are no actual flames to be found on this scene, you wouldn’t know it based off the sense of urgency displayed in nearly every step they take.

“The competition is serious,” Breitung Township firefighter Jim Rose said. “You get on that line to start, you’re going to give it your best shot to do the best, don’t try to DQ and hang on to the hoses so you don’t get hurt, and have some fun.”

“For the U.P., this is a big one,” Norway Fire Chief David Bal said. “There are a lot of people that, over the last 36 years, I see every year here or pretty close to it. Any of these firefighters can go pretty much anywhere in the country and walk into a fire station and be welcomed.”

It’s easy to see why. From start to finish, each of the 16 competing crews makes their run through the gauntlet look like child’s play, all while being judged by a panel of experts.

“What we’re watching is some of the basic firefighting skills — the ability to get the hoses deployed rapidly, to make the couplings, to get the nozzle on, have the position, be able to hit the target or the fire with the stream from the nozzle,” Chief Bal said. “It is similar to a lot of the skills that not only do we use at the fires, but are similar to what they all get in the training.”

“When you look at all the hoses and fittings going together, most of our stuff is pretty fixed,” Rose said. “Everything’s on the truck, but you’re doing the same thing with the nozzle, you’re aiming. The hydrant guy. Hooking up that hydrant, twisting the water on. It’s just like when you’re hooking up at a fire scene. You’re having fun, but you’re under pressure, too, to get the job done correctly.”

And even though things can get a little heated out on the playing field, at the end of the day the tournament boils down to one thing.

“I would say, first of all, the people,” Chief Bal said. “Firefighters from all over the U.P. There are a lot of firefighters that come to this that aren’t from the U.P., and it is a sense of community within the fire service.”

And on a day like today, that community is having a blast.