On most days, firefighters risk their lives. On Saturday, they had to risk only their pride.
Ten teams of firefighters from throughout the state competed in a firefighters competition Saturday afternoon at the Municipal Building.
The contest was part of a joint conference of the Georgia State Firefighters Association and the Georgia Association of Fire Chiefs.
The teams competed in four timed events designed to test their firefighting skills.
The events ranged from the "hook and ladder," in which a team had to leave a truck, get a hose and ladder in position, and send a team member up the ladder with the hose; to the "busted hose," in which a team had to shut off water through a hose, replace a leaky section, then turn the water back on, using the stream to knock down a target.
A team from the Martinez Fire Department placed third in the overall competition, just behind fire departments from Isle of Hope and LaGrange.
The team rallied quietly behind a fire truck after the event.
"In our history, we've had first-place finishes overall, but this was a much bigger competition," said Capt. Anthony Lovett, the team's leader.
Capt. Lovett said the team, which participates in about three competitions each year, owed its success to hard work.
"It's just the dedication of the men," he said, noting that team members volunteer their own time to practice for and compete in the events.
That dedication is what keeps Eddie White, the competition's director for more than 12 years, coming back, he said.
"I'm getting on up there in age, and I love to see the things these young guys perform and seeing the competitive spirit that's always been in the fire service," said Mr. White, adding that the morale boost among firefighters made such contests worthwhile.
"Our guys at our station never show better morale than when they're getting ready for a competition, practicing," said Mr. White, a member of the Rockdale County Fire Department.
Besides the competition, the firefighters' conference, which began Monday, featured several seminars and events for firefighters and the public.
Events included a parade of fire and rescue vehicles Saturday afternoon, and speeches from U.S. Sen. Paul Coverdell, R-Ga., and Republican gubernatorial candidate Guy Millner.
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