Departments square off at U.P. Volunteer Firefighters Tournament

Amasa firefighters clamp a hose to block water while changing out connecting hoses during the interchange race Friday at the U.P. Volunteer Firefighters Tournament. Below, a Negaunee firefighter opens up the hydrant for his team during the interchange race Friday at the tournament. (Daily Mining Gazette photo by Garrett Neese)

By GARRETT NEESE – The Daily Mining Gazette

C A L U M E T — Teams from across the Upper Peninsula and Wisconsin met in Calumet Township to claim the trophy at the 127th annual U.P.

Volunteer Firefighters Tournament. Nearly 40 teams registered for the event, which also included a dress parade and nightshirt parade Thursday night. Early Friday afternoon, teams were competing in the interchange race.

On both sides, departments watched the festivities from under tents, throwing out friendly barbs at other teams. Congregating in front of their fire-red bus was the Munising Fire Department. It’s the 47th tournament for Chief Dan Malone, who’s been fighting fires for 50 years.

“Over the years, you build up friendships, relationships with other fire fighters, other fire departments, then it just continues to grow,” he said. “Every year you get back, and you get to see them again.”

He was encouraged to join the department by a friend of his. Chief for the past 20 years, he’s also been president of the U.P. Firefighters Association and U.P. Chiefs Association. Munising’s hosted the tournament four or five times since Malone’s been there.

“It’s hard work, but a lot of fun, he said. “People come and enjoy it, but the people that are putting it on are doing a lot of work. And it pays off,” he said. “It’s appreciated by everybody that’s in attendance.” He thought this year’s tournament was going well, aside from one thing out of the host department’s control.

“I’ve been to 47 tournaments and this is the coldest one I’ve been at, he said. “But they’re fun anyway. It’s always a good time.”

One department was from just over the state line in Florence, Wisconsin. Florence fire fighter Dustin Windell has been coming to the tournaments for five years.

“You talk to them about how they set their trucks up, different gear and whatnot, different ways of attacking fires,” he said.

“Everybody has different ideas and thoughts. So you just try to put them

all together and whatever works for you.”

Windell joined up after a bunch of his friends “suckered me into it,” he said. But he enjoys it.

“You feel like you’re useful in some way,” he said. “You’ve got a job and it’s just a good group of friends that you get together with all the time.”

The tournament wrapped up with the Commercial Parade and closing ceremonies at the Calumet Township Fire Station on Saturday.


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