West Iron County wins

L’ANSE, BARAGA – The 119th annual U.P. Firefighter’s Tournament was full of competition, but all the firefighters in attendance were winners after a full weekend of fun, fellowship, public recognition and professional development.

“More than anything, it’s the camaraderie,” said Brian Mayworm, 32-year firefighting veteran and former chief, secretary, president and current volunteer with the Hurontown Fire and Rescue volunteer department. “You have guys from Florence, Wisconsin, another state, that we let in our association because they don’t do that in Wisconsin. … It’s fun to get together, high five, shoot the breeze, discuss different things, but we’re always looking to get better.”

The desire to improve – saving more lives and more property as the ultimate goal – served as plenty of motivation during the tournament, but the friendly competition through a series of four events helped, too.

After factoring in Thursday’s dress and shirt tail parades, Friday’s tournament races and Saturday’s commercial parade, West Iron County took home first place in the overall competition (339 total points). Skandia/West Branch (337), Forsyth Township Fire (289), Caspian – Gaastra Tri City (284.33) and Champion (271.33) rounded out the top five.

The top five finishers in Baraga, Houghton, Keweenaw and Ontonagon counties were Chassell Fire (12th place, 198 points), Bruce Crossing (15th, 137), Calumet Township (17th, 131), Hurontown Fire Department (18th, 127) and Hubbell (21st, 100) out of the 36 U.P. teams who registered points.

“It’s a lot of fun. It’d be nice to see more crowds, it’d be nice to see (the races) set up on a different day like a Saturday,” said Matt Ellsworth, fourth-year firefighter for Bruce Crossing, after his team completed the final leg of Friday’s races, the mystery race. “It’s a lot of fun and the competition is great here. … Everybody’s sharing drinks and having a good time.”

The number of adult beverages consumed, along with the mystery element of the mystery race certainly made for an entertaining time for spectators at L’Anse Waterfront Park Friday afternoon in the 72-degree sunny weather.

One select firefighter on each five-person team – after each member successfully dressed in firefighter gear – had to place his or her forehead on top of a fire hose nozzle and spin around in a circle five times before sprinting to the end of three lengths of hoses. One teammate connected the hose to the hydrant, another connected hose lengths one and two, another two and three and the other helped the staggering nozzle spinner to the end where at least two members clutched the end of the hose for dear life to blast a construction cone out a circle painted on the road.

Several firefighters fell after spinning, bringing laughs from spectators and competitors alike. WIC, Crystal Falls and Caspian – Gaastra were the top three finishers in the races. Chassell Fire and WIC (tied for first), Hancock and Skandia/West Branch (tied for second) and Forsyth Township were the winners in the dress parade. Florence, WIC and Skandia/West Branch placed top three in the commercial parade, and Skandia/West Branch, Gladstone Fire and Caspian – Gaastra Tri City won in the shirt tail parade.

“It’s all about making you more efficient than you were in the past. Every day you want to get better,” said Mayworm, who said Hurontown, like many departments, could use more volunteers. “We’re not there to make money, we’re there to save property and lives. Whatever that takes, we’re willing to do.

“… This (tournament) gives everyone a chance to relax and have fun. Tomorrow, when those tones go off, they’re gone and they do whatever they can.” For more information about the tournament, visit uptourney.baragafiredepartment.org.