Belfast Telegraph

Thousands muster to see the old skills put to test at World Police and Fire Games

BY CLAIRE WILLIAMSON

It's called Muster – a test of old school skills that every firefighter needs.

Belfast's Titanic Quarter yesterday hosted the surreal sight of firefighters from all over the world trying to get a ping-pong ball out of a tube.

But Muster is not as easy as it sounds, as thousands of visitors who swarmed to the Titanic Slipways for the World Police and Fire Games saw yesterday.

It requires strength, skill and agility.

Competitors took a trip back in time for the old-school competition which showed spectators how it used to be done.

Paddy Quinn, event co-ordinator, said: "They are using the old skills of firefighters.

"They still use them but it's a demonstration of the way they used to do it.

"It's more dynamic than anything because it happens very quickly. This is what firefighters do, day in and day out; they arrive and their aim is to put water on a fire as quick as they can."

The short race consists of a speedy run with the vintage hose cart down the track while one member races ahead with an axe and hits a stump of wood.

During the run, the hose is connected to a water hydrant.

The team then shoots the water at a target and knocks it over.

The second part of the race is called the Bucket Brigade.

Teams pitch a ladder against a tower and use canvas bags to transfer water from a bucket to a blue barrel.

Attached to the barrel is a side tube with a table tennis ball inside.

The winner is the first team to get the table tennis ball out of the tube.

Northern Ireland competitor Jonathan Caughey (26) is part of team Misfit, named for the fact their team is made up of multiple nationalities.

He said: "It's the first time we've ever done it.

"I'm in it for fun and to have a good laugh with a bunch of guys, but a medal would be nice."

Simon Baldock (32), from the South Australia Metropolitan Fire Service, said: "It's just fun, but the guys take it fairly competitively and you still want to do a good time.

"I just love coming and seeing new places and being around international firefighters and police. It's just a really good atmosphere."

Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service team captain Aidan Magennis said: "While the race may only last 30 to 35 seconds, it's push, push, push all the time.

"There is an element of fun to the games. You can see the guys spraying the crowd with water. It's firemen at play."

Although not everyone was having a good time.

A team member from Zaragoza, Spain, tripped and fell during his race and dislocated his elbow.

But spirits remained high as competitors were met with excited squeals from children as they aimed the hose in to the air.

Some keen spectators even stood behind the target to ensure they got sprayed with the water.

Isobel Bingham from Rathfriland was among those watching with her children.

She said: "It looks like good fun and there is lots of water which is everything children love."

She added: "There is a great sense of community."

FACTFILE

The Muster event is made up of two races.

The first short race consists of a speedy run with the vintage hose cart down the track while one team member runs ahead with an axe and hits a stump of wood (left). During the run, the hose is connected to a water hydrant; they then shoot the water at a target. The second part is the Bucket Brigade. Teams pitch a ladder against a tower and use canvas bags to transfer water from a bucket to a blue barrel. Attached to the barrel is a side tube with a table tennis ball inside. The winner is the first team to get the ball out of the tube.

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