A hopped-up blue vehicle, looking more like a dragster than a fire vehicle, screeched to a halt after revving and rumbling down the track at Michael J. Tully Park during the drill portion of the 2012 Nassau County Fireman’s Association Parade and Drill on Saturday morning.
Members of the New Hyde Park Fire Department Termites drill team scrambled off, ran a length of hose from where they had stopped to a hydrant further down the asphalt strip, hooked up the hose, and hit a target situated several yards away - all in 6.31 seconds. That earned the team a first place finish in the motor pump event, a position the Termites were once accustomed to regularly occupying in competitions with other volunteer fire departments.
They received their loudest applause of the day in the motor pump competition, waving to the cheering crowd as the drove back to their tent.
On Saturday, the Termites finished a respectable fifth overall, competing in all eight contests. Led by team captain John Cottone and driver Mike Athenas, both New Hyde Park volunteers, the Termites recently merged with the Garden City Park Mustangs and have been one of the most competitive teams over the past 30 years.
Athena said the Termites were once a top team and are now looking to regain their momentum.
“Of all the competitions, I’m looking forward to the motor pump and buckets the most. They both have the most team effort,” said Athenas, before the largely mechanized events began on Saturday.
Hosted by the Port Washington Fire Department, Saturday was the second of a two-day event. Friday evening featured the Nassau County Old Fashioned Drill in which the Termites did not participate.
The Termites started working with the Garden City Park Fire Department Mustangs team last year, and officially merged this year.
“We would practice with them a lot, and they had very little members so we decided to combine our teams,” said Cottone.
The Saturday competition events included three ladder events, two hose events, the motor pump and bucket races.
A large crowd of family, friends, fellow fire department members and retired members gathered to cheer on their teams from the 8 a.m. start to mid-afternoon.
A three-man ladder consists of three team members climbing the ladder to reach the top wrung as quickly as possible. The motor ladder contests (b ladder and c ladder ) require a driver, two diggers (who spoke the ladder into the asphalt) a thrower and a single climber. In b hose, c hose and efficiency, the teams quickly assemble a hose and nozzle and hit a target. The hose is connected to the hydrant and water flows directly down (144 ft.) to a nozzle. In motor pump, the hydrant is connected to the truck and pumped out thru a 96 foot hose.
The final event was the bucket brigade, which consists of five gallon buckets, a 55-gallon drum with sensors at 45 gallons to fill and trough on ground. Men climb the ladder, buckets are filled and passed up the ladder and then dumped in the barrel.
“A great run would be in the low 20 seconds,” said Past President of the Nassau County Volunteer Firemens Parade and Drill Team Captains Association and team member Neil Brogan.
The Termites finished third in Three Man Ladder in 7.13 seconds, fifth in one of the other ladder in 6.23 seconds, fourth in efficiency (tied with the Glenwood Greenhorns) .
The NHPFD teams started in the 1940’s after the war, where each New Hyde Park company had a team.
“During the Vietnam War, there wasn’t enough guys here to compete, so we disbanded until reforming in 1972,” said Athenas. The Termites have set numerous New York state records, and have consistently placed in the New York State Championship drill, finishing four times in second place. The last year the Termites won overall was 2008.
“Fire department racing has been an integral part of recruitment and retention in the New Hyde Park Fire Department. The training and teamwork learned by team members proves to be very valuable on the fire ground,” said Brogan. “Many of the department’s senior members have belonged to the team at some point during there tenure.”