YORK — No one seemed to mind the leaking fire hoses at the York Beach Fire Department Annual Parade and Muster on Sunday.

With temperatures near 90 and sunny skies, the wet hose competition was a welcome chance to cool down for firefighters taking part in the muster.

“We try to make it fun,” said Mike Brown, a volunteer with the York Village Fire Department on the other side of town.

Fire department musters were a common weekend activity in the past, but only a few departments carry on the tradition today, said York Beach fire Capt. Mark Gay, who has been with the department for 40 years and has organized the muster for 30 of them.

The York Village Fire Department hosts a muster in August. Gay said he didn’t know of any others.
Gay said no one knows exactly how long his department has hosted the muster, but it dates at least from the 1940s, because the Kittery Fire Department still displays the trophy it won in the York Beach muster 70 years ago.

The event kicked off with an ear-splitting parade through downtown York Beach, sirens blaring on a long line of fire trucks and emergency vehicles from southern Maine and New Hampshire fire departments.

The muster included events that tested which of the teams was fastest at connecting a dry hose, connecting a wet hose, knocking down a target, ladder climbing and replacing a broken hose.
There was much good-natured ribbing. Firefighter humor abounded.

For members of the Rollinsford, N.H., Fire Department, the muster is a chance to practice team building.

“We enjoy getting out and supporting other departments,” said Alan St. Onge, the Rollinsford team captain.

Others said the muster is a way to socialize with firefighters from other departments who they may have worked beside at a fire at some point.

“But you don’t get to do ‘How ya doin’ ’” at a fire,” said Brown, who turned up at the York Beach muster in a dalmatian suit for the 11th year in a row.

While the tourists largely bypassed the muster for the beach, the event drew a few visitors, including a group of friends, many of them members of the fire department in Esopus, N.Y., a small town on the Hudson River about 90 miles north of New York City.

Mike Cafaldo, former Esopus fire chief, said they couldn’t pass up the event when they read about it in a local newspaper. The former chief said they have similar competitions in New York.

“Only they have fire hydrants. We don’t,” said Wayne Freer, a fellow Esopus firefighter.

Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

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