The competitors pose following the muster awards presentation. Photo by Kim Eliason

Quincy Wins Firefighter’s Muster at Fair!

The water fight is a popular event at the annual Fire Muster during the Plumas Sierra County Fair. The crowd enjoyed the cooling spray on a hot afternoon. The Portola team won first place in this event. Photo by Kim Eliason

A proud team of five firefighters from the Quincy Fire Protection District won the annual Muster at the Fair, for the second year in a row. Taking first place in three of the four events, Quincy dominated the Muster, losing only in the Water Polo competition.

Fire Musters in America date back to 1849, when the first one was held in Bath, Maine. They often feature events with historical equipment, but the Plumas County muster was designed to allow fire departments without antique fire engines and other apparatus to join in the fun.

The half-day competition featured four events:

1) The Chief Jim Hamblin Bucket Brigade (named in honor of the Indian Valley chief).

2) A race donning protective clothing and self-contained breathing apparatus.

3) A charged fire hose line extension nicknamed “The Human Hose Clamp.”

4) The “Water Polo” event. While six teams were originally signed up to compete, three had to drop out due to accumulated schedule backups, following the emergency coverage for structure protection in Quincy during the Minerva Fire.

Thankfully, the fire was mostly contained by the day of the event, and all local government resources had been released. A last-minute call for a fourth team was met graciously by firefighters coming together from the Eastern Plumas Rural, Chester, and Quincy fire departments. Special thanks were given to this group, who did not have time to practice together given the late entry.

Besides Quincy and the “Hybrid All-Stars” as they came to be called, the other teams were from the Portola Fire Department, and a joint team from Graeagle and Plumas Eureka. With Quincy coming in first place overall, there was a tie for second place between the Portola and Graeagle/Plumas Eureka teams, and the hybrid team came in third place.

Volunteer Master of Ceremonies Mike Williams, an appointed member of the California State Board of Fire Services, traveled up from Santa Barbara County for the weekend, bringing his own amplified sound system for the Muster. Joining him was retired California State Fire Marshal Ronny J. Coleman, who served as the historian to help explain the background of the events to the spectators. Coleman, a fire service legend who has authored 18 fire service books among many other accomplishments, serves as the Chairman of the National Fire Heritage Center in Emmitsburg, Maryland. The non-profit NFHC is working to preserve and document fire service history.

The Quincy team took first place in the Chief Jim Hamblin Bucket Brigade competition. Photo by Kim Eliason

Williams commented on what he thought was “… the fantastic sportsmanship and camaraderie between the teams. It was a terrific experience for all involved. Memories of the days of the historical American colonial fire service came alive at the Muster, with a competition that the spectators, including many children, really seemed to enjoy. I had a great time.”

Coleman enjoyed yet another muster, one of hundreds he has been to over his more than 60 years in the fire service. “I love coming up to Plumas County, and really had a lot of fun. Plumas County should be very proud of their firefighters,” he said. “I hope to make it back next year.”

Special recognition from the muster organizers were given to Denise and John Steffanic, who donated the muster T-shirts for the competitors and all awards, through their Portola-based business Sierra Promotions. Special thanks were also given to Richard Stockton of State Farm Insurance in Quincy, Kirk and Dana Lambert of Lambert & Lambert Insurance in Portola, and Tom Goss of Farmers Insurance in Quincy for their generous sponsorship of the muster.

Now is a good time to consider becoming a volunteer firefighter in your community. Contact your local fire department for more information.