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Competition heats up

Fire department tourney makes return at Morin Lake Days

ALDEN — After a five-year dry spell, southern Minnesota fire departments looked to reignite an interdepartmental competition Saturday with four friendly events at North Park in Alden.

“I’ve been on the department for 23 years, and it’s just something that I have been kind of brought up with in the department, and it’s just a lot of fun,” Alden fire chief Jim Thunstedt said. “… A lot of departments now have younger members that haven’t had a chance to participate in the fireman’s tournament.”

According to Thunstedt, the competition was intended to rotate yearly between fire departments, but there hadn’t been once since the last time Alden hosted the event. He is trying to start it up again, and put on the event as part of Morin Lake Days.

Before, invited teams were the 15 members of a southern Minnesota association largely located to the west of Alden, but this year, Thunstedt said the group also included some Freeborn County teams and departments. Six teams participated in this year’s tournament: a team from Emmons, a combined team of Manchester and Hartland, Wells, New Richland, Conger and Freeborn.

The Conger Fire Department came in as the reigning champion five years ago, Thunstedt said. Ahead of the competition, current Conger Fire Department Chief Dave Steele said he anticipated the bucket brigade and water war would be the most fun to participate in due to the day’s heat.

“It’s just fun to get out in the community and participate with the other fire departments around, and just have fun,” Steele said.

The tournament’s four events included:

A hose-coupling contest — Two team members compete to uncouple and re-couple three 50-foot lengths of hose. Both members start at the same spot, then run 50 and 100 feet, respectively, to the hose coupling to perform their task.

A ladder climb — Six members of a team pick up a ladder and run 20 feet and set the ladder upright. Another team member runs 100 feet to meet the ladder and then has to climb its length, hitting each rung.

A water fight — In a tug-of-war revamp, two competing teams use water pressure from the hose to move a barrel to the opposite team’s side. Three team members are in full-gear (excluding air packs) for the competition.

A bucket brigade — Ten-member teams compete to fill and pass five collapsible buckets down from a water tank to a barrel and back. Thunstedt said the bucket brigade is a nod to old-time firefighting.

Thunstedt said the events were likely chosen to show skill and ability and for their relation to what firefighters are required to do for their jobs — things like climbing ladders and coupling hoses. Teams were timed, and each event had an individual winner. The tournament also named an overall winner; this year’s was the New Richland Fire Department.

The tournament was scheduled for 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday.

“Each town seems to bring their own fan club, if you will, and it’s kind of exciting just to hear the cheers for your local team that’s competing,” Thunstedt said before the event. “Other than that, it’s just a real nice day of competition and camaraderie.”

About Sarah Kocher

Sarah covers education and arts and culture for the Tribune.

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