Return to the tournament

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette The Houghton Fire Department pushes a target towards its goal against Hubbell in a first-round match of an event at the 66th annual Copper Country Firefighters Tournament in Dollar Bay Saturday.

DOLLAR BAY — Fire departments from around the Copper Country converged on the Dollar Bay baseball field Saturday afternoon, throwing on jackets, climbing ladders or dousing a target in blasts of water.

It wasn’t an emergency call, but the 66th annual Copper Country Firefighters Tournament.

Jon Mottonen and Ed Sever of the Calumet Township Fire Department have been coming for about 33 and 35 years, respectively.

“It’s a good day to be with the rest of your brothers,” Sever said. “We always stick together. If it’s the U.P., or the Copper Country, it’s always a good time and everybody enjoys themselves.”

Last year’s competition, coming less than a week after the Father’s Day Flood, saw scaled-down participation, but local departments were back out in force this year.

Tamarack City was one of the departments returning this year. Todd Shank, a firefighter for three years, enjoys the racing. His favorite event is rolling hose.

“Everything’s been pretty good,” he said. “We haven’t gotten disqualified, so that’s a huge plus.”

The biggest change Mottonen and Sever identified over the years has been foreknowledge of the races. Where three of the four races used to be announced ahead of time, now all are mystery races.

“You don’t know what you’re going to get when you get here,” Mottonen said. “They do that so you can’t practice them and be better than everybody else.”

At the start of every event, team captains clustered to hear the rules. In a relay event, teams passed water by filling a bucket of water, then pouring it to the buckets of successive team members. One tossed the water onto the roof of a building, leaving another team member to collect water pouring down a spout on the side. Two more passes got it to the final team member, who poured it into a final bucket until they hit the final mark.

In the final event, teams played a form of tug-of-war, blasting water at a target suspended on a cord overhead to push it to the other end of the target.

Steve LeClaire, of host department Dollar Bay, was watching the left goal — and also trying not to get soaked.

There’s a lot of preparation involved to get everything running smoothly, he said. But aside from a bell falling off during the first ladder competition, the day had gone well.

“It’s just a fun day to get together with all the other departments,” LeClaire said. “Everyone likes to have a good competition and have a good time with all your colleagues.”