Despite the planning Corey Bett and other firefighters of the Ronkonkoma Fire Department do to prepare for the annual Fireman’s Association of the State of New York’s winter games, something always changes.
“Everything goes out the window because they change the events every year,” Bett said Saturday. “You’re all prepared and then they change it.”
Around 200 volunteer firefighters from across the state competed Saturday at Greek Peak Mountain Resort in Virgil, said Doug VanEtten, a member of the Cortland County Fireman’s Association organizing committee. Saturday’s games included snow tube racing, an obstacle course challenge, a hose connection relay and tug-of-war.
A game of broomball was also to be played Sunday at SUNY Cortland with an awards ceremony following.
The event, VanEtten said, was created more than a decade ago to give the firefighters a fun day off to relax.
“Volunteers, they don’t work shifts,” he said. “The reality is if the whistle blows at 2 in the morning or 2 in the afternoon, if you can go, you go. So there is no day off, per se. So for the folks who’ve traveled, they get to leave the station behind and spend some time with their second family, their fire service family.”
For Bett and members from the Ronkonoma Fire Department, their plans for winning the games changed with the introduction this year of the obstacle course, Bett said. The course required the members to go through tunnel piping, avoid cones and then pull one of their own members on an ATV with a rope.
It didn’t change Bett’s love for the games, though.
“I’ll be up here in a wheelchair when I’m 90 being like, ‘Come on guys, let’s go!’” he said.
The games also helped Bett understand the connection between firefighters.
“You don’t realize the brotherhood the fire service is until you’re here doing this with people from all over the state, and everybody just comes together as one group,” he said.
Mike Horner, a firefighter with the Marathon Fire Department, said he appreciated the snow that arrived Friday, but also catching up with members of other departments.
“I saw a guy from Spencer and I haven’t seen him in a couple years when he stepped in with us and helped us out,” Horner said. “It’s good seeing the guys you haven’t seen in a while, plus you talk to other departments and see how they’re doing and what they’ve had to deal with.”
His hopes for the games?
“Everybody have fun, but we’re always rooting to come in first,” he said.