Seven teams from volunteer fire departments throughout the region competed for trophies — and bragging rights — in five different events at the annual Fire Safety Rodeo sponsored by the Kingsport Safety Council, VFIS, J Mark Bowery Insurance Inc. and WKPT-TV.
“The firefighters get a chance to show off their skills and they love doing it. This event is for them,” said Kingsport Safety Council Director Dick Bailey. “They give their time and efforts, and put their lives on the line for their communities every day and this is our way of trying to give them something back.”
During the rodeo, teams of at least four volunteer firefighters compete for the fastest time in several evolutions displaying skills utilized during fire-ground operations. Saturday’s competition featured two teams each from Bloomingdale Volunteer Fire Department and Carters Valley VFD and one team each from Gray VFD, Nolichuckey VFD, and Warriors Path VFD.
And while no team left without a trophy, teams from Carters Valley VFD took home the two biggest ones — capturing first and second place in the overall competition. The overall winner is determined from points accumulated in four competitive events. A fifth event, the popular battle of the ball, does not count in the overall points’ total.
“We spend an awful lot of time fund raising, a lot of time training and our call volume just keeps going up, but this gives them a chance to come out and show off and have fun,” said CVVFD chief Mike Yates.
“They’re real competitive and their training shows in these events,” he added. “I’m very pleased with them.”
The overall rodeo champion was Carters Valley Team #1, a team that finished second overall a year ago. Team members included: team captain Aaron Pierson, Cruz Russell, Caitlin Smith, Milo Kim and Cory Wood. The team took first place in two of the five events — the bucket brigade and the surprise event, which serves annually as the rodeo’s first event of the day.
“We wanted to come out as a group, not as two separate teams, and have a good day. We didn’t really care who did what, just as long as we won as a department,” the 17 year-old Smith said.
Of course, that doesn’t mean CVVFD Team #1 won’t enjoy the bragging rights that comes with finishing just ahead of their fellow members and it certainly doesn’t mean that Team #2 won’t be gunning for victory next year.
“Oh, it’s going to be a big competition, no doubt,” Yates said.
Bloomingdale VFD Team #2, which included Leslie Kilgore, Josh Christian, Mike Lifford and Matt Whetsel, finished third overall. The team also won the crowd-pleasing, but non-scoring, battle of the ball.
Warriors Path VFD, with team members Ben Castle, Josh Widener, Jonathan Wallace, Donnie Paul, Joey Baldasono and Jimmy Strickland, finished fourth overall and took first-place honors in the interior attack event.
Bloomingdale Team #1 also netted a first-place trophy with the best time in the quick attack event, and the Nolichuckey VFD won the judge’s annual sportsmanship award.
Organizers were initially worried that a new home for the event, which moved from Dobyns-Bennett to Holston Army Ammunition and BAE Systems, might hinder attendance. That wasn’t the case, though.
Dozens of spectators turned out to support their volunteer firefighters. Some even got in on the action as youngsters in attendance, dubbed Junior Firefighters, were able to participate in mini versions of both the bucket brigade and the battle of the ball.