LOUISVILLE The custom truck roars down the gravel track at more than 70 miles per hour, with four firefighters clinging tightly to the back. It stops on a dime and the contestants leap off, raising a ladder to the platform more than 19 feet above their heads. One man scampers up the ladder to end the run, and the announcer reads off the time over the loudspeaker. The whole thing takes less than 6.5 seconds.
The firematics races were the main event Saturday at the Northern New York Volunteer Firemens Association annual convention in Louisville.
Its probably the best part of the convention, said Hal T. James, a volunteer firefighter with the Potsdam Fire Department.
The convention began Thursday and the events on the final day were open to the public.
It gives us a chance to get together with our fellow firefighters, Mr. James said.
Nine drill teams from volunteer fire departments across Northern New York competed in the races, which featured a host of different events that challenged drill teams skill with ladder, hose and bucket.
Spectators lined the track to cheer on their favorite teams.
For many, the races are a family affair.
Louisville native Nate W. Smutz came to cheer on his uncle, who was racing with the Lousiville Turtles.
Everybody gets together as a community, Mr. Smutz said.
Sandy E. Roberts represented the Turtles as one of the two drill team captains. A volunteer member of the Louisville Fire Department for 50 years, he worked to create the custom vehicles he drove in the competition. His team met and practiced in its free time two nights a week.
All participants wear helmets for safety, but Mr. Roberts said it still can be unnerving to race down the track with an entire team clinging to the back of the truck.
Its kind of a funny feeling, because all the guys back there Drill teams participate in events all around the area throughout the summer, often followed by loyal family and friends.
I grew up around it, said Nicole L. Brosemer of Deerfield. Ms. Brosemers father raced for years, and her boyfriend is on Deerfields drill team. She is a volunteer firefighter and sometimes participates in the races herself, but on Saturday she decided to watch from the sidelines with her 3-year-old son, Lucas S. Arcuri.
Its been a lifestyle for me, she said. I come out every summer.
Spectators could dig in at a chicken barbecue throughout the day. After the races, the band Six Foot Midget played a concert before the convention closed with fireworks about 10 p.m.