VIRGIL — It had all the excitement of a multi-alarm fire: Firefighters — hundreds of them — in turnout gear scurrying about, making impromptu plans of attack, recovering afterward as the next team stepped in.
But there was no fire Saturday at the top of the tubing slope at Greek Peak resort in Virgil. No accident, no emergency — unless you call the drive to win first place an emergency.
The ski center was host to the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York’s winter games over the weekend, bringing together about 250 firefighters from 40 departments for winter activities and letting the firemen get to know members of departments they rarely, if ever, get to see.
The activities included tube racing, geocaching, a hose relay, a basket carry and a tug-of-war at Greek Peak. Broomball and the final awards ceremony took place Sunday at Park Center Alumni Arena at SUNY Cortland.
Firefighters came from Long Island, the Syracuse area, the Buffalo area and the Rochester area.
The Bowsmansville Volunteer Fire Department in Lancaster took part for the first time, bringing 10 firefighters, two five-person teams, to compete. Firefighter P.J. Reiner said the department had never been active in FASNY events and it wanted to bring people to get to know other fire departments.
“It’s awesome meeting people from other departments we don’t see,” Reiner said. “And it’s a hell of a lot of fun.”
The games have been in Cortland County for the past decade, when it moved from Lake Placid.
“We all have the same stresses from working in emergency services,” said Homer firefighter Doug Van Etten. “Everything here has relevance to what we do, like problem solving.”
The hose relay has firefighters roll up a hose and work to connect it to a hydrant.
Tubing has them work to fight against the snow conditions to finish first.
“There’s so much in emergency services that is unpredictable,” Van Etten said. “Being able to react and adapt is huge.”
“It promotes camaraderie,” said Justin Russo of the Farmingville Fire Department of Suffolk County, which has been coming to the games for eight years and brought 10 members this year. “We get to meet firefighters from all over who do the same thing we do.”
Aric Ryan was one of five Marathon firefighters to come. It’s a local event, he said, so it is good to provide some local representation.
“The tubing is always fun, but the tug-of-war is where the most competition is,” Ryan said.
“I keep getting comments from other firefighters about how friendly and welcoming the area is, and what a great host we are,” Van-Etten said.