Breaking West Tisbury's Three-Year Streak, Tisbury Firefighters Take Top Prize in Muster

By MARK ALAN LOVEWELL

Tisbury firefighters were the winners in Sunday's annual Dukes County Firefighter's Muster, besting Oak Bluffs by half a second in tight competition. More than 150 people turned out for the popular muster on a warm and sunny day that was marked by watery fun and skilled firefighting at Waban Park in Oak Bluffs.

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"Water, water, water," shouted Jeff Pratt, a Vineyard Haven emergency medical technician and master of ceremonies, at the start of the competition. With a microphone held close to his mouth, Mr. Pratt shouted out the details of how firefighters compete.

A makeshift fire hydrant stood in the open field and was used to tie in all the hoses used during the events.

Six towns and 48 firefighters participated. They came from Carver, Chilmark, Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, West Tisbury and Tisbury.

Aquinnah fire chief Walter Delaney was visible among the judges, conferring often with the Island's other fire chiefs to make sure the event was fair and run by the book.

The day began with a late morning parade up Circuit avenue that ended at Waban Park - also an annual ritual. The muster included three events that tested the stamina, skill and coordination of eight-member teams. Teams that were able to finish the tasks fastest won.

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The Midnight Alarm is a popular event that duplicates the conditions of an old-fashioned fire station. Teams lie down on cots and await the loud blast of an air horn. When the horn sounds team members must rise, put on all their firefighting gear and run across the field with hoses where they shoot down a target.

Edgartown outperformed all the other towns by a significant margin, completing the task in 38.5 seconds. Oak Bluffs came in second place at 45 seconds and Chilmark was third at 50.5 seconds.

The second event, Firefighter Challenge, was a bit more complicated and called on firemen to knock down a target with high-pressure water shooting from a hose, and carry a heavy dummy in a stretcher. The last part of the event called on one fireman to put on a full breathing apparatus, climb a ladder and sound an air horn. Tisbury won that competition by completing the event in 98.5 seconds. Oak Bluffs and Edgartown tied for second place in 105.5 seconds. Chilmark came in third at 112.5 seconds.

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The third and last event of the day was called Confined Space. It required firemen to climb through a hay bale tunnel carrying a hose, hit a target with water and then climb back through the tunnel. West Tisbury won the competition in 49 seconds, Chilmark came in second at 52 seconds and Oak Bluffs earned third place at 54 seconds.

Tisbury won the overall competition with a total time of 159 seconds; Oak Bluffs came in second with 159.5 seconds and West Tisbury as third with 163.5 seconds.

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Mr. Pratt said the last two events had never been done before at the muster and reflected a shift in testing training. Earlier this year, a number of Island firemen took a weekend course in fighting fires in confined spaces. There is renewed emphasis on teaching firemen how to get in and out of dark and tight areas safely.

The afternoon ended with a crowd pleaser - a group of Island women firefighters who turned out to demonstrate their skills. The women did an abbreviated Midnight Alarm in front of an appreciative audience.

The Tisbury win was an upset, breaking a three-year winning streak by firefighters in West Tisbury.

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