NEWCASTLE – From Thursday, June 17, to Saturday, June 19, volunteer firefighters from around Wyoming competed in a variety of contests – jumping off a truck, connecting hoses, spraying targets and racing up ladders – to see which drill team could pull off a victory at the 88th Wyoming State Fire Convention.
Torrington, Lingle and Wheatland fire departments were among the drill teams competing at the Wyoming Firemen’s Association State Convention held in Newcastle. The convention, which lasted from Wednesday, June 16, to Saturday, June 19, consisted of five competitions and a few meetings.
Any department in Wyoming that would like to get a team together is welcome to participate and spectators are also encouraged to attend. This year, there were eight teams – Lingle, Torrington, Afton City, Afton Rural, Riverton, Lander, Wheatland and Newcastle.
Torrington firefighter Dennis Estes said he was on Torrington’s drill team for 25 to 30 years. Estes said each year, firefighters compete in the same five events – Replace Contest, WYE Contest, Double Male/Double Female (Horn) Contest, Chop Contest and Wet Test (Ladder) Contest. Mike Lira of the Torrington Volunteer Fire Department said the Horn Contest and the Chop Contest are crowd favorites.
“What it simulates is training for fire service,” Estes said.
The first event on Thursday was called the replacement. Estes ran one of the backup timers for the event.
“If we’re at a fire and run a hose down the street to a house, and we have a section of a hose that breaks, we’ve got to replace the hose real fast,” Estes said. That is what the Replacement Contest simulates.
Newcastle won the all-around competition. According to Estes, Wheatland came in sixth, Torrington was seventh and Lingle eighth. Torrington had a second-place finish in the Chop Contest. Estes said he is optimistic about the team going forward.
According to Gene Dietrich of the Newcastle Volunteer Fire Department, each host community has a different setup, equipment and water pressure, so teams get opportunities to practice before competition starts.
Estes said Torrington’s plugman, Albert Lira, was injured during a practice run.
“He’s probably the oldest plugman in the state and probably the fastest,” he said.
Dennis said Torrington has won multiple events in years past and still holds one state record. However, the team only recently began competing again.
“This is a brand-new team. We haven’t run for five years,” he said. According to Estes, in the past few years, no one had stepped up to put together a team. He said this year was also Lingle’s first time competing in a few years.
With each team consisting of volunteers, Estes said, “they give up their weekends to come do this and they give up their time. Most of these teams will practice two or three times a week for a month, month and a half or two months.”
Each run requires five team members, Dietrich said. Some teams have backups.
Estes said Torrington had practiced for a month and a half before the convention, usually three times per week. He said they focus equally on all events, with five total team members.
“A lot of people think it’s just a big party event. It’s not. It’s a big-time competition,” Estes said. “It’s very competitive.”
Dietrich, who celebrated his birthday by being at the state convention, has been with the Newcastle Volunteer Fire Department for nearly 60 years.
Dietrich, who also serves as Executive Secretary of the Wyoming State Firemen’s Association, said the convention has been one of the most rewarding parts of his experience as a volunteer firefighter. He said his first convention was in Torrington in 1962.
“You develop friendships in every town,” Dietrich said. Estes agreed the camaraderie between departments has been valuable.