The muster consisted of four events calculated to test the skill and strength of two teams of Patterson firefighters, but more importantly, to provide fun, excitement and camaraderie both for the fire companies and local residents.
“It’s a nice break in the pressure for these guys, and they really do enjoy the competition,” said Jonathan Schali, a 13-year veteran fireman. “A competition like this builds camaraderie, and that’s very important in our line of work.’’
The muster, which returned to the fiesta’s schedule a year ago following a five-year absence, is the Olympics of a bygone era of firefighting, Schali added.
The temperature on Saturday was relatively moderate, with a high of about 90 degrees. The competition, in the tradition of musters, was also temperate.
“A muster like this shows the community what we do, but in a fun way,” West Stanislaus Explorer Blaine Christiansen said. “People don’t usually get to see us in a non-emergency situation. So, this provides us a way of showing everyone what we are able to do when we’re out in the field.”
The day of competitions started with the use of a decades-old fire engine and moved backward through time, as crews faced off in a host of contests harkening back to the earliest days of the fire service.
Some of the hoses that were connected to the antique vehicle shot out rust-colored water as competitors tried to knock down a safety cone in the motorized hose wagon event. Firefighters competed using a 1941 Van Pelt fire truck that shone a bright red, but lacked the computerized gauges and pumps found in modern-day fire engines.
Driving the vintage rig and connecting the hose wasn’t too unfamiliar for the Patterson Fire Department’s Team Two, who won the timed event with a 47-second finish.
In the water-ball challenge, each team directed a stream of water at a ball suspended on a cable, trying to push the ball over the opposing teams’ marker.
Teams consisted of a nozzle man, a backup and three other members to help with the hose.
At the signal, contestants opened their hose nozzles on straight stream and aimed the water at the ball. The event ended when the ball passed the designated point on the cable.
Again, Team Two — including Patterson firefighters Vince Sciandri, Steven Hignite, Ben Harr, Jeff Fijman and Brandon Cousins — claimed the victory.
“You’re seeing the history of the firefighter,” Schali said.
Other activities of the day included a turnout race, a firefighters challenge where members had to change from civilian clothes into full fireman’s gear.
Team One — including West Stanislaus Explorers Jennifer Lemus, Justin Ambrosino, Frank Silva, Anthony Cordova and Christiansen — finished first in the event, with a time of 4 minutes, 38 seconds.
“In our (firefighter) training, we got trained to put our gear on fast,” Christiansen said. The key to swiftness, he added, is to align everything beforehand.
The cuffs of the trousers are stuffed into the boots, which are placed side-by-side, and the fire hood is placed in the seat of the trousers between the boots, so it can be grabbed quickly.
Team Two also won the bucket brigade competition, which consists of a line of five fire fighters quickly passing buckets of water to one another until they’ve filled a 50-gallon tub.
The team moved the buckets with such coordination that it almost seemed as if that were still the method of firefighting in Patterson. But Schali said the company’s only bucket experience was at the musters, which are more about fire crews bonding than showing off their skills.
“We look at it more as a time for camaraderie,” Schali said. “The competition is an added benefit.”
• Marc Aceves can be reached at 892-6187, ext. 28, or firstname.lastname@example.org.