A cloudless sky stretched across scenic Centre Island Beach on July 21 at Bayville Fire Company’s 7th annual charity drill tournament. Nine drill teams from across Nassau County attended the invitational to compete in a series of service drills, all while benefiting local charities.
One by one, teams raced down the narrowed track to complete different tasks: footing ladders, connecting hydrants, replacing hoses, adjusting nozzles, hitting targets. The members sprinted along with determined speed, sounding back and forth to one another to ensure unflinching efficiency, as if the threat of a blaze was omnipresent.
“The tournament features old fashioned drills, and we compete mostly for bragging rights, but it’s also good for morale and puts into practice a lot of skills we use every day,” said Zachary Ney, a member of Bayville’s drill team, the Oak Neckers.
“It’s fun, but it’s also making sure you can work together effectively as a team, communicate and dedicate the time to work on the drills.”
The drill teams faced off in six races over the course of the tournament: efficiency, ladder footing, cart running, hose replacement, efficiency replacement and 2-into-1 hose replacement.
Ney explained that while the contending teams compete in similar tournaments year-round, Bayville’s invitational tournament offers firefighters the opportunity to do more than show off.
Proceeds from this year’s event will be donated to The Heather Pendergast and Chief Michael Hallquest funds, and sponsor scholarships for two Locust Valley High School graduating seniors, one of which was the Oak Neckers own Julia Giannoutsos.
The Heather Pendergast Fund assists sick children of local firefighters or EMS volunteers to help cover the cost of medical bills, and the Chief Michael Hallquest Fund benefits the family of a former Sea Cliff fire chief who lost a battle with brain cancer earlier this year.
Sea Cliff’s drill team captain William Koopmann, of Glen Cove, said the invitational’s dedication to their fallen chief meant a lot to them. “It was a little added incentive to run and do our best for our chief,” he said. “We were happy to be there and happy to be a part of it.”
Event emcee John Doyle, an ex-chief of the Bayville Fire Company, said the invitational helps bring attention to other aspects besides the fire service. “So many organizations throughout the community step up and support it. It tells us that we’re on to something here, and it’s something worth doing.”
For Doyle, who has attended drill tournaments for the last 35 years — as long as he’s been a firefighter — bringing firefighters together for a good cause and some healthy competition is great for the community to see, too.
“Competitions like this are a great eye-opener to the youth of the community,” Doyle said. “There’s so much more than answering alarms and training and going to school. There are days like this where the camaraderie of the fire service comes out.”
Ney, who’s coming up on his tenth year as a volunteer firefighter, agreed. “We really love to give back to the community, and for them to know we’re ready to go 24 hours a day and be as respectful and courteous as possible really means a lot to me,” he said.
Both the Bayville Oak Neckers and the Sea Cliff Cell Crushers will compete in the New York State drill tournament next month.