For the first time in years, crews from all six Island volunteer fire departments will participate in Sunday’s Dukes County Firefighters’ Muster in Oak Bluffs.
While the firemens’ muster is firefighting work and play at its best, the festivities have a serious aspect. The muster is another opportunity to practice firefighting skills, with the help of a clock, a crowd and competition.
The event begins Sunday morning with a parade from the Steamship Authority wharf up Circuit avenue around to the Dennis P. Alley Park, formerly known as Waban Park. After the parade, the firefighters gather for hours of fun under the sun or clouds in the park.
Admission to the muster is free. The grill will be running and refreshments will be available.
Simon Bollin, a captain with the Aquinnah fire department, said firemen from Chilmark and Aquinnah are merging together to form a competing team. Aquinnah hasn’t participated in the muster for years.
To the surprise of organizers, two off-Island towns are participating. They are Swansea and Carver.
“Carver is coming after not being here for awhile. I can’t remember how long it has been since Swansea has been here,” Mr. Bollin said.
The muster will be the largest gathering of firemen on the Vineyard since the Cafe Moxie and Bunch of Grapes fire on Main street in Vineyard Haven on July 4. Firemen from three towns fought the fire.
Many of the firemen will not have seen each other in their firefighting gear since that blaze, which destroyed the Cafe Moxie and seriously damaged the Bunch of Grapes.
“This is all about practice, about getting together,” said Jeffrey Pratt, a Tisbury volunteer fireman and the muster’s master of ceremonies. “Working together, practicing their skills is the central purpose of having these musters each year. Add camaraderie.”
Events will be held to test the prowess of each of the teams.
The Midnight Alarm Challenge requires a team of firefighters to lie down on cots. At the sound of the alarm, they are required to get dressed into their firefighting equipment, and run through a gate, do some steps that involve shooting water at a target. The team able to do the exercise the quickest wins.
More events are planned, like pulling hoses through a confined space and pulling a little fire truck.
For children that gather on the sidelines, there is a chance they can get under the gallons of water shot into the air.
Town fire department chiefs will judge the muster competition. The town fire department with the lowest score wins and gets to bask in the glory for coming year.