Aspiring firefighters from across Inland Empire participate in competition

More than 150 aspiring firefighters from throughout the Inland Empire will be running with water buckets, rapidly deploying fire hoses and engaging in other timed exercises at a Riverside park today in a contest based on “old-time” firefighting techniques.

“This offers kind of a snapshot of traditional firefighting from bygone eras,” Riverside Fire Department Capt. Tim Odebralski told City News Service, referencing the first Inland Empire Firefighter Explorers’ Association “Fire Muster” held in the city.

Two-dozen teams from departments in Riverside and San Bernardino counties are slated to participate in the daylong competition, which gets underway at 9:30 a.m. at Arlington Heights Sports Park.

The explorers, who range from ages 14 to 21, will square off for a chance to claim the 2014 IEFEA Trophy — and the “bragging rights” that come with it, Odebralski said.

“There’s a large group coming from all over the region — Apple Valley, Hesperia, Murrieta, Riverside and other cities,” he said. “This is about promoting teamwork and camaraderie.”

Around 500 spectators are expected and will have an opportunity to see the teenagers, young men and women test their physical endurance, stamina and coordination in three primary events — the “bucket brigade,” the “make-or-

break” and the “water-ball.”

In the first event, teams form a line to — as expeditiously as possible — haul 50 gallons of water in buckets to a storage tank that pumps water onto a fire, similar to the techniques used in the 1850s, according to Odebralski.

“It’s old-time firefighting at its best,” the captain said.

In the make-or-break event, teams are required to move a 150-foot hose as quickly as possible to the location of a fire, hooking onto a hydrant, then stringing the line until it can be aimed at the mini blaze.

The “water-ball” contest pits two teams against one another, using high-pressure hoses to move a weighted ball from one side of a 150-foot platform to another. Each team is positioned on either side of the platform, according to Odebralski.

“The objective is a lot like tug-of-war,” he said. “They’ve got to move that ball into the other team’s corner.”

He said the participants are clad in “full protective gear,” and any spray directed at contestants is counted against the offending team and can result in disqualification.

“We promote safety first and foremost,” Odebralski said.

An outdoor barbecue is planned during the lunch break. The event is free and open to the public.

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