San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

October 3rd, 2008
Firefest kicks off
today in Buda

Buda firefighter Jacob Haverda in action

Buda firefighter Jacob Haverda in action

By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large

BUDA – For the first 47 years of its existence, the old Buda Volunteer Fire Department would hold a fundraiser. Usually, it would be some kind of a barbeque with a dance afterwards.

For the last four years, the Buda Fire Department (BFD) has gone at it in a manner befitting a larger operation. Now, it’s called Firefest, two days of top Texas musical acts, a sort of firefighters’ Olympics, cook-offs and conferences.

Angie Roberts-Huckaby, coordinator of this year’s Firefest, estimates that the crowds this year will top the 10,000 who came to City Park over two days last year.

The event for today and Saturday will include performances by Cross Canadian Ragweed, Stoney LaRue, Johnny Bush and others, as well as competitions involving 124 firefighters from Texas and beyond, a cook-off with 80 barbeque teams, and a leadership conference that will draw 150 firefighters.

The proceeds will go towards building the BFD’s live fire training facility, which creates a controlled environment for aspiring firefighters. The facility will make training more accessible for the BFD and other local fire departments, who generally utilize a very busy such building in Austin.

The leadership conference, Pride and Ownership, is being given by Lewisville Fire Chief Rick Lasky, who is basing it on his book, “Pride and Ownership: A Firefighter’s Love of the Job.” The conference is being given today (8 a.m.-5 p.m.) at the Hays CISD Performing Arts Center.

Beyond the food, music and conferences, the highlight promises to be separate competitions designed to test firefighters in the most harrowing aspects of their jobs.

The firefighters challenge involves going up four flights of stairs with a heavy hose, dropping the hose, hoisting up another hose, running back down the stairs with a charged hose, forcing entry into a room and performing a rescue operation. The top competitors can pull it off in well less than 90 seconds.

“I can’t believe humans can do this stuff,” Roberts-Huckaby said.

The winner last year, Robert Rygg of the Hudson Bend FD, finished in one minute and two seconds, one second ahead of Frank Perry of the El Paso PD. El Paso won the team competition, with Hudson Bend coming in second.

The fastest time wins a two-day trip for two to Music Fest in Steamboat, CO, Jan. 5-10.

The extrication challenge requires that a firefighter stabilize a vehicle, use tools and remove a dummy from the vehicle.

The events during the day, including the firemen’s competitions, are free for admission. However, the evening events, which include many of the musical performances, cost $15 per day.

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