By David Weber
Twenty-five teams of firefighters from 15 departments across Long Island took part in the 10th annual Chuck Varese Vehicle Extrication Tournament on Saturday.
The tournament was held at the Northport Fire Department’s Training and Fair Facility, a small clearing on the corner of Clipper Drive and Steers Ave., amid downpours of rain.
Designed for participants to train in real-life scenarios, the tournament was established after Northport Fire Department ex-Chief Robert J. Varese’s son, Chuck Varese, was killed in the line of duty.
“I remember feeling very grateful for allowing my son’s memory to live on,” Varese said. “And now, 10 years later, we are still doing it.”
Varese said he hopes participating teams learned a thing or two from the training session.
“These guys should be learning from each other, that’s what this is all about,” Varese added. “I hear some of them say, ‘I didn’t know you could do that!’ And that makes it all worthwhile.”
The vehicles were donated by Gershow Recycling, which buys scrap metal that would otherwise be thrown into landfills.
Using hydraulic tools, such as the Jaws of Life, the firemen raced against the clock to efficiently and safely pry open one of the 30 mangled cars in the area. Judges took note of mistakes and promptly recorded them in their notes.
East Northport’s team hit a snag when their tools did not produce enough force to cut through the car metal. As their team struggled to find a solution, the windshield shattered, scattering glass throughout the immediate area.
But, even with the minor setback, East Northport took second place with their time of 5 minutes and 35 seconds. Commack Fire Department’s squad finished just shy of five minutes, earning them the top prize.
Trophies were given to the teams with the best times and overall performance. The fire departments that participated with teams were Centerport, Cold Spring Harbor, Commack, East Northport, Eaton's Neck, Greenlawn, Huntington Manor, Islip Terrace, Melville, North Bellmore and Northport. In addition, the Huntington Community First Aid Squad and Commack Volunteer Ambulance Corps provided EMS coverage for the event.
Richard D’Angelo has served as director of Gershow’s Huntington facility for nine and a half years. He said he does all he can to help the local fire departments. “I feel like I am part of their family,” he said.
“But, at the end of the day, it really is about saving lives.”