Vermont firefighters converge on Middlebury

ANNAJO SMITH IN yellow sunglasses leads her New Haven Fire Department teammates in a water polo contest vs. firefighters from the Vergennes department during the Muster Games competitions that were part of the Vermont State Firefighters Association Convention in Middlebury this past weekend. Independent photo/Steve James

DESPITE TEMPERATURES THAT soared above 90 degrees on Saturday, Adam Berno of the Addison Volunteer Fire Department gives it his all while dressed in full equipment during a Muster Games competition during the VSFA Convention in Middlebury on Saturday. Independent photo/Steve James

ASSISTANT CHIEF ROB Gaboriault, in helmet C-2, is joined by Weybridge firefighters Brandon Mendez (F-27), T. Charlie Jordan (F-19) and Lawrence Pyne (F-36) in the bucket brigade contest during Saturday’s Muster Games in the Woodchuck Hard Cider parking lot. Independent photo/Steve James

MIDDLEBURY — More than 150 firefighters representing departments from throughout the state converged on Middlebury this past weekend to associate, learn, compete and honor the best among themselves.

It was the 2019 Vermont State Firefighters Association (VSFA) Convention, held July 19-20 at various locations in Addison County’s shire town. The gathering included a memorial service, annual business meeting, guest speakers, the judging of fire apparatus, muster games, live demonstrations of firefighting techniques, an awards banquet and a fireworks display on Saturday evening.

Several Addison County firefighters were among those honored for their meritorious service during the past year. They included Bristol’s James Goodyear, the Vermont State Firefighter of the Year; Addison’s Steven Torrey, Senior Firefighter of the Year; Addison’s Chris Reed, the Line Officer of the Year; and New Haven’s Dean Gilmore and Bristol’s Bill Elwell, both of whom received the “President’s Award” from outgoing VSFA President John “Peeker” Heffernan, himself a Bristol firefighter.

Also lauded were Swanton’s Jason Butler, the Fire Chief of the Year; and Hunter Tallman of the Underhill Jericho Fire Department, who was named Youth Firefighter of the Year.

Tallman also received one of three George S. Gibby Scholarships awarded by the VSFA leadership at a Saturday gathering. Tallman and Lauryn Quimet of the Shelburne Fire Department, each received $1,000. Clarendon firefighter Zachary Ames received a $500 scholarship.

Addison County firefighters did extremely well at the muster games, staged at the Woodchuck Hard Cider property off Exchange Street.

The games allow firefighters to show their competitive side through team-based competitions that demonstrate each department’s skills in firefighting-related skills. The muster games events include:

Water polo, in which teams use water shooting from fire hoses to push a volley ball passed the end line to score points.

Bucket Brigade, which replicates putting out a house fire using just a bucket; teams must carry buckets of water up a platform and fill a barrel.

Wet Hose, in which teams connect a hose to a hydrant and spray a target.

Midnight Alarm; firefighters jump into full turnout gear (even if it’s 90 degrees out).

Portable Pump; run to the equipment, assemble it and shoot water at a target.

The Vergennes Fire Department was the overall muster games winner this past weekend. The VSFA Cadet Academy team took the sportsmanship award, and the New Haven Fire Department was runner-up in that category.

Many area businesses, lodgers and restaurants benefitted greatly from the visitors drawn by this year’s VSFA conference, which switches locations annually.

Reporter John Flowers is at

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