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Firefighters Flex Their Muscles Against Police

Columbus Dispatch via YellowBrix

August 16, 2010

COLUMBUS, OH – Police officers and firefighters clumped together on opposite ends of the rope. Some heckled the other side, some adjusted the perfect grip.

“The fire department never shows up to lose,” said Stephen Smith, battalion chief of the Washington Township Fire Department.

The first match was quick. Firefighters yanked the Dublin police officers over the line in seconds. Police officers made a comeback for the second match, but the past week’s worth of bickering ended in the firefighters’ favor after the last match.

“It’s just a charitable thing to do, to let the firefighters win, because they get to sit around in those comfortable chairs all day,” said Lt. Heinz Von Eckartsberg, interim chief of the Dublin Division of Police. “We wanted to give them some excitement.”

Jests and smack-talking aside, this tug of war kicked off a week full of serious competition. Dublin’s Coffman Park transformed into a social hot spot for children, adults and law-enforcement officers last night for the opening ceremony of the Can-Am Police-Fire Games.

Hundreds of police officers and firefighters will compete this week in about 50 events, said Bill Merrylees, CEO of the Can-Am Police-Fire Games. Athletes from 39 U.S. states and Canadian provinces and 10countries have signed up to compete, whether it’s Texas Hold ’em or the eight-event, daylong Toughest Competitor Alive challenge.

The athletes will vie for gold, silver and bronze medals, but the games really are about staying in shape, making friends and having fun, participants say.


Dublin police officers tumble to the ground after winning a tug of war against Washington Township firefighters. The police lost the match but won the middle of three tugs by pulling hard before the firefighters were set.

“It’s the camaraderie of it,” said Les Presling, a retired firefighter who came from Auckland, New Zealand, for the games. “The firefighters are the same all the world over; it’s really a brotherhood.”

Twenty have registered for the Toughest Competitor challenge. They will run 3miles, throw a shot put, sprint for 100 meters, swim for 100 meters, climb a 20-foot rope, bench press, do pull-ups and complete an obstacle course.

Josh Bricker, the games director, said he expects the event to be a crowd favorite.

Bricker, the sports and events manager for the Dublin Convention and Visitors Bureau, has planned this week for more than two years along with the city and local police departments and firefighters.

This is the first time that the biennial games have come to Ohio, and the decision-making process is rigorous. Along with stipulations about lodging, venue space and planning, the city paid $25,000 to the Can-Am Games board to be a host, Bricker said.

Board members decided on Dublin because it is surrounded by businesses and attractions such as the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and has strong volunteer support to run the games, Merrylees said.

The city has about 200 volunteers this week, not including those from the police and fire divisions, Bricker said.

The games should bring in enough people to fill up to 2,000 hotel rooms, he said.

The city will receive the majority of the registration fees, which are $95 for one event and $5 for each additional one. Proceeds then will be divided between two charities: Muscular Dystrophy Association of Central Ohio and Get Behind the Badge, which offers immediate financial help to families of officers or firefighters killed or critically injured in the line of duty.

The games continue until Sunday. Aside from the sport, Bricker said the week will help people see authorities differently.

“When they compete, they’re not in uniform,” he said. “This goes to show that they’re just like you and me; it puts them in a whole other light than usual.”