Fighting a fire, naturally, is a race against the fire: get it out as fast as possible by minimizing injuries in the process.
Firematics — or fire drills — is a race against the clock. No fire involved here, though the skills required in each drill are still ones that could someday come in useful on the scene of a fire.
And the teams take it about as seriously as a real fire.
“Being in the department itself is like a part-time job. And then being on the drill team is like another part-time job,” said co-captain Ryan McArdle on Saturday, as the Riverhead Fire Department’s drill team — The Ironmen — hosted its 28th annual tournament.
Nineteen different drill teams from across Suffolk County participated in Saturday’s competition, which took place at the department’s training grounds next to the Route 58 armory.
Mr. McArdle said the team meets two days a week to practice, each one about three to four hours long. And with eight different events the squad participates in during the summer months, that doesn’t include getting ready for the competitions on Friday nights and cleaning up after the events on Sundays.
The contests consist of eight different events — five of them involving vehicles, and three others “old fashioned.”
Firematics is largely unique to New York State, though for those involved in the sport, it’s not unique at all. The teams have devout followings, with live video and audio covering more than one drill on any given summer weekend for those unable to make the events.
Winners and losers are often decided by just a split second — though for those in the middle of a competition, that difference can feel like an eternity.
“These can come down to tenths of a second,” said Mr. McArdle. “But when you’re out there, it feels like 30 seconds.”
The Ironmen finished eighth in the 19-team competition, grabbing five points — two points for finishing fourth in the motor pump competition, and three points for third in the B hose competition.
Click the following pages from more photos from Saturday’s event: