Firefighters vie at park

By Andrew Marra, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 19, 2003

There was nary a lick of flame to be seen, nor a single cat atop a tree.

But about 40 volunteer firefighters from across Martin County came anyway, donning gear Sunday afternoon at Tropical Farms Park for a friendly, but edgy, competition to decide who really had the right stuff.

Martin County Fire-Rescue's volunteer establishment revived the old "Firematics Competition" for the first time in more than five years, as competitors faced off to see which team, for instance, could knock over cones with a fire hose most quickly. Or who could fill a barrel with water the fastest.

It wasn't the stuff of Backdraft, but it excited the crowd of spouses, girlfriends and children.

And, as volunteer Fire Chief Doug Goethel observed, this was an opportunity for the volunteers to build camaraderie and show off their skills -- not to leave the competition singed.

"Some teams here are very competitive, and some are just out to have fun," Goethel said.

Jon Soderberg, a volunteer from Jensen Beach, decided midway through the competition that his team fell in the latter category.

"We're not doing too well," said Soderberg, an engineer by day. "Couldn't get the roll right."

He was referring to the contest in which teams unroll lengths of hose, combine them and spray water at an orange cone. It proved not to be everyone's forte.

"We're here for the camaraderie and the enjoyment," Soderberg said. "And the free food."