TRI-STATE FIREFIGHTER'S ASSOCIATION MEET AT LAKE
For many years now, (more than some of us care to remember') there has been an annual Tri-State Firefighter's Association meet. Forty years ago to be exact, this organization became a reality and is composed of members from the three southern New England states, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island which all border on each other.
The purpose of this association is to bring a closer working relationship with each other, make new friends and exchange ideas in regard to firefighting, and to learn more about the types of equipment and the methods used fighting both building and forest fires by other states.
Originally forest fires was the main concern of the association, with fire detection, suppression, and the impact of seasonal changes, various land conditions and types firefighting equipment used for each area by each state to match their particular situation.
The annual meeting was always held in the fall on the first Sunday after the Autumnal Equinox and this dated was supposed to guarantee fair weatrher according to Willard Hall, one of the original members from Rhode Island responsible for forming this association, and who carries several other well deserved titles. As a boy in 1945 and my first year with the fire service, I will always remember Mr. Hall with his Boy Scout hat, leather style engineer boots with his pants tucked inside the boots, and sport coat or jacket as being ther King Pin (leader) of the association whom everyone looked up to and admired because of his knowledge and expertise both with the weather predictions and fire service.
Each annual meet featured demonstartions, some of whichI still remember well. One of these demonstartions that was used several times, was the burning and extinguishment of an aircraft. Because World War 2 had just finished, there was aircraft available which was damaged or crashed. The U. S. Navy would bring the aircraft to our meet on a low-boy, along with a crash truck, and put on a complete demonstration. Our own program usually consisted of portable pumps, pump cans, foam and fire engine demonstrations.
The Navy from time to time would bring in a helicopter and perform water rescue operations and survival techniques.
The attendance was usually small, about 50 people, mostly firefighters with a few civilians looking on. Each year the meet was held in a different state, rotating the location for equal sponsorship. The Massachusetts area was at Walluk Lake, in the town of Douglas, Mass. and is located on the border of Rhode Island. Walluk Lake is jointly owned by both Mass. And R.I. and is controlled by both states.
As the years passed, new and young blood came into the organization. Musters were held and strong competition developed between the teams. Attendance was growing, display booths for fire related equipment started to pick up and fire apparatus was on display and some was demonstrated. In all, we thought wehad it made. For a few years the attendance improved and things looked good.
As muster teams became involved with trheir own league meets, we were unable to have teams available to attend our meet. Attendance dropped off, scheduling difficulties arose and it was necessary to make a very important decision.
“Should we aboilsh the whole association or go all out for a last big push?” It was decided to give it a last ditch stand and go all the way, sink or swim. “The Old Yankee spirit, never say die.”
Because of this decision, it was agreed to change the annual meeting date from fall to spring. It was agreed that the fall meet was after a busy summer by everyone, with the muster teams being tired, while dealers and patrons had their fill of shows. The spring meet would be more appreciated by all espicially those suffering from cabin fever after a long winter. It would be an incentive for everyone to hurry the spring and summer season with a huge, active show at the earliest possible date.
May was the month and the third or fourth Sunday was the date, (the Sunday following Mothers Day).
The second most important factor was to have a location centrally located and large enough to accommodate our needs. The most likely place was Webster Mass. On Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchanbunagungamaugg (Webster Lake) at Memorial Beach. A beautiful lake, town owned with three seperate ponds, a boat ramp, toilet and bath facilities, large parking area and extremely clean.
The third project to be undertaken was to spread the word and generate interest among fire departments, dealers, distributors and manufacturers as well as new and used fire equipment vendors. Booth space and apparatus dealers were charged a minimum fee. Trophies and plaques were awarded, food booths were set up with coffee and cold soda available.
The fourth and final factor was to get our order in early for the best possible weather. The good Lord looked down on us and gave us his blessing with a beautiful Sunday that resulted in a huge success for our first spring meet.
Every year since, we have been gifted with excellent weather, except for one damp year, but not enough to cancel our meet. Word is out, “If you want good weather, watch for the Tri-State Meet.
New Fire apparatus is parked in the front lines while in service, older and antique units are parked in a seperate area to be judged for awards.
Demonstartions are continuous throughtout the day in a seperate and specific area showing newly acquired equipment and apparatus.
The New England Life Flight Air Ambulance from the University of Massachusetts Medical Center is always a featured attraction. Recently we also have had the Life Star Air Ambulance from Hartford Connecticut with both helicopters on the ground at the same time for people to observe and compare.
The Massachusetts Fire Academy in 1993 also demonstrated their sprinkler trailer. This unit is an over the road trailer, equipped with sprinkler heads charged by a pumper. Live fires are started and extinguished by a sprinkler head. A fire department pumper drafted water from the lake throughtout the day to feed the Fire Academy sprinkler trailer and wet down the helicopter landing area.
Southern Connecticut Rescue Training School rapelled from a 100 foot aerial ladder from various towns.
Video tapes of fires, with scanners, books, T-shirts, caps, jackets, fire department tools and equipment, Hurst and Lucas rescue tools and all sorts of fire related memorabilla were some of the items available for purchase or showing.
Free parking is available to all as well as a beautiful sandy beach, picnic and playground facilities for children.
Two of the larger expenses, printing of the posters, and trophiesand/or plaques are donated by apparatus dealers and manufacturers. Each year is better than the previous year with booth displays increasing each year
Our own food booth is manned by members and their wives and profits are used to operate the association. We are a non-profit organization, operating from year to year with the profit from this year going toward next years meet. We recently installed a new pole and electrical junction box with several extra outlets for the vendors, which was a donation to the Town of Webster from our Association.
The goal of the Tri-State Firefighter's Association, as was previously stated, is to make for a better understanding, not only between our neighboring communities, but our neighboring states as well.
If we can continue to bring together the three state fire services, working with each other as one, show each other what we have to offer, help each other as brothers doing the same job with the same equipment, then we should be able to close the gap between career and call and volunterer firefighters. AFTER ALL, IS THAT NOT WHAT THE FIRE SERVICE IS ALL ABOUT???
For many years there has been a feeling of bitterness between and career and call and volunteer firefighters for which there is absolutely no reason.
I refuse to use the term “professional firefighter” as I have seen some full time career firefighters who could not begin to compete with some call and/or volunteers.
Call and volunteers undergo the same training with the same equipment, same instructors and the same fires as do the career firefighters. It msakes no difference if a fire burns in a city, large community or small town, the fire is the same, injuries are the same and the victims are just as dead...
Career firefighter have always been looked up to, respected and admired by call and volunteers with the only difference being the career firefighter was fortunate to be employed full time, something many call and volunteers look forward to, while others could never take a full-time position because of personal reasons. He/She is therefore serving their community in the best and probably the only way they can as a call and/or volunteer firefighter.
Many communities throughtout Massachusetts make it mandatory for full time firefighters to attend a 12 week course at the Massachusetts Fire Fighting Academy, an excellent program. Several call or volunteer firefighters have completed this course while others would like to but time and cost have been their downfall. The alternative is a min-course sponsored by the Academy and held evenings, Saturdays and Sundays in local stations or training areas with several towns participating. It takes much longer for a call or volunteer to achieve his certification this way but eventually he will have the same training with the same instructors.
It is true when a full time or career firefighter is on duty working shifts he is constantly working with his equipment, holding training sessions regularly and driving the apparatua. A call or volunteer firefighter must obtain this training and drills with his own equipment and on his own free time. This is done many times after putting in a full days work at his own job or during his weekend.
Anyway you look at it, a firefighter is a firefighter, be he/she career, call or volunteer and is to be highly respected at all times, and it is up to that individual to maintain that status.
One of the objectives of the Tri-State meet is to bring these firefighters together as one, to display apparatus and equipment, demonstrate their ability and compare procedures used by each other. Never at these meets have we had problems pertaining to seperate groups, especially in light of over 2500 to 3000 people passing trhough the gate.
Call and volunteer firefighters are in an overwhelming majority across our country and if it was possible to combine with the career firefighters on friendly terms, think of the tremendous potential with legislators we would have to strenghten our position in terms of manpower and equipment. We could easily outnumber any municipal group for support in our favor which would be beneficial not only to our communities, but to each individual and his/her own department. The possibilities would be endless and the potential is there, waiting for us.
Firefighter meets such as the Tri-State meet are held across the country each year. Some are larger, some are smaller, but what makes us unique is we are a New England group composed of three individual New England states and our meets include both old and new equipment as well as structural firefighting methods and wildland fires. State forest fire equipment from all three states are represented each and every year and give us their full support. Ladder trucks, pumpers, rescue vehicles, and ambulances from all three states, both old and new are on display as well as participating in our demonstartions.
We are open to all, and anyone wishing to show equipment or demonstrate it may do so. Dealers are charged a small fee, while there is no charge for community for community-owned apparatus to attend and be judged. A trophy or plaque is presented for the various categories to municipal departments while those who participate in the demonstartions are also presented a plaque.
We feel that we have contributed to the fire servicethrough this meet and try to project a better feeling of unity among the three states, firefighters in attendance and hope to spread the feeling of brotherhood among each other and to the general public who showed us that they are interested in our service and took time to attend our event, see the operation of the fire service and what we have to offer.
This is one way of selling ourselves, not only to other Firefighters, States, Towns, Public Officials, but also to the people who count the most. The Taxpayer. The people at Town Meetings who vote for the budgets so that we will have the necessary equipment when we need it, the people whose homes, businesses, and schools we protect.
These meets are a win-win situation for Fire Deaprtments everywhere and for the 50th year we are still striving to make the Fire Service number one for everyone.
All firefighters, young or old, career, call, or volunteer should strive to pull together to make the Fire Service first and foremost in everyone's mind, support each other and fight for what will make the Fire Service a better and safer place to work and prepare you for the next alarm, whatever it may be.
For 47 years, 18 as Chief, I have enjoyed it and would not swap it for anything. It would be nice if everyone could leave with the same feeling.
Meet ever and hope to add several new demonstrations, some new displays, and our own memorabilla which we have never had available before.
The world of firefighting is opening up to the general public, so that they may be made aware of our equipment, how it is used, what it is used for, why we need it and the various types of apparatus and equipment in use in other communities.
The name Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchanbunagungamaugg is an old indian name which I am told translates to ( You fish on your side and I will fish on my side and no one will fish in the middle). The short name is Webster Lake. Named for the Town of Webster, Massachusetts.
Chief Willaim B. Albin, Ret.
Uxbridge Fire Department