Firehose Relay Race raising money for a good cause at A-Basin |

Firehose Relay Race raising money for a good cause at A-Basin

Red, White, and Blue Fire Department's team of five firefighters kick off their race by extending the fire hose to teammates before descending for the slalom gates at the 12th annual Fire Hose Relay Race on Feb. 23, 2018 at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area.
Hugh Carey /


What: Firehose Relay Race

When: Friday, Feb. 22 from 10:30 a.m to 3:30 p.m.

Where: High Noon trail at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, 28194 U.S. Highway 6, Dillon.

Cost: Free to attend and watch but donations are encouraged. Race registration is closed.

Don’t panic if you see firefighters racing down Arapahoe Basin Ski Area’s High Noon run on Friday. The only thing on fire are their skis and boards, not structures. What you’re witnessing are groups of firefighters, engineers, contractors and other industry sponsors competing in the 13th annual Firehose Relay Race.

The race, organized by BCER Engineering Inc., tasks five-person teams to maneuver around 15 giant slalom gates on the intermediate run while holding a 50-foot hose and wearing bunker coats and fire helmets donated by South Metro Fire Rescue. There are time penalties if members take out a gate or let go of the hose and teams will be disqualified if they miss a gate or cross the finish line without everyone holding the hose. Whoever is the fastest after two runs takes home a traveling trophy and bragging rights.

But most importantly, all competitors walk away with the knowledge of supporting a good cause: Children’s Hospital Colorado Burn Camps Program. The camp is an opportunity for children who have suffered a burn, along with their families, to enjoy rest and rehabilitation in the outdoors.

“It’s one of the best causes of all,” said Derek Goossen, captain of local Red, White & Blue Fire Protection District and relay racer. “Burn injuries are some of the most devastating injuries that you can have and it adds an extra layer of emotion when they’re children. It’s kind of one of the few injuries that you never 100 percent recover from. If you have bad burns, skin grafts can last for years and years.”

Last year the race raised roughly $25,000 for the program, which sends about 25 kids to the camp. With 32 teams competing this year, paying between $300–$3,000 in entry costs, the event is looking at raising more money and helping more children. That upward trend has been visible since the relay first occurred on Loveland Ski Area’s Firecut trail 13 years ago.

Gary Lederman, a member of the trade organization Colorado Fire Protection Association, brought the idea with him from New York and Darren Mansur initially helmed the event. Unfortunately participation and organization started slipping — the race didn’t even occur in 2010 — so in 2013 Chuck Gallagher, another member of the association, brought it to his boss Steve Rondinelli of BCER. Gallagher moved it to A-Basin for more visibility and since then the partnership between the two has been going strong.

Along with supporting charity, the relay race is a fun time filled with camaraderie. At the end of the day an awards banquet lets competitors mingle and possibly win prizes such as skis, goggles and gift cards.

“If you show up to A-Basin you’re going to know some of your brothers and sisters from other fire departments around the state,” said Ryan Grafmiller, a firefighter with Summit Fire & EMS. “It’s a really cool event and people come from all over.”

The lightheartedness does give way to serious competition. Western States Fire Protection Company, last year’s champion, won in 36 seconds as opposed to the more common times of a minute or minute and a half. The company won in 2013 and 2007 as well. According to the racers, neither the home team of Summit Fire & EMS or Red, White & Blue have come in first place. All three groups agree that the key to a good race is less about athletic ability and more about successfully unspooling the hose at the start.

“Some teams may have physically ran a quicker race, but it’s all about getting the hose rolled out well, quick and picked up,” said Nick Bakeris with Western States Fire Protection, who has been racing in the relay for four years. “Our first was actually a disaster I think. We rolled it out, and it rolled to the right and past the gate and we all got tangled up and falling before we even started moving. So I think we posted one of the worst times and then also the best time.”

“If that hose bounces off a ski boot or ricochets,” Goossen said, “people are scrambling to get it and that’s when people lose the most time. It’s a lot harder than it sounds.”

Other tips include grouping up by height, putting snowboarders on the same team, and, naturally, skiing as fast as possible.

“It can be intimidating when you have four other people skiing right behind you,” said Grafmiller. “If you wipe out going 30 mph, everyone is just going to run you over. So the first person has to go without concern as fast as they can and the rest will follow.”

Though race registration has closed, attendees can donate to the cause as Ernie Walker from Platte Canyon Fire Protection District makes his rounds throughout the base area lodge.

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