Firefighters take on ultimate test

Mossburn Volunteer Firefighters Stephen Trusler and Jeff Manson came away with five trophies and second place at the United Fire Brigades' Association (UFBA) National Waterway Challenge held in Wainuiomata at the weekend. Photo: Supplied

THEY were one point off winning.

But Mossburn volunteer firefighters Jeff Manson and Stephen Trusler, who have a combined 64 years’ experience in the brigade, have walked away from a national competition on top of the world.

It was their sixth year taking on the United Fire Brigades’ Association (UFBA) National Waterway Challenge together, which was held in Wainuiomata at the weekend.

A test of skill, it comprised several different scenarios of simulated firefighting, where appliance hoses were used by running them out of a man-made dam or fire hydrant.

Mr Manson said he and his team-mate competed in six events between Friday and Saturday, which required them to beat the clock by shooting a dish with their fire hose once they completed each task.

The biggest challenge was consistency.

“No matter how fast you can run with your hose, you have to have skill,” he said.

He had been a member of the brigade for 35 years and Mr Trusler had served his community for 29.

Despite decades of career experience, the pair owed their second place spot to practising three nights a week in the months leading up to the event.

“It takes a hell of a lot of training.

“We would take an appliance down to our own track in Mossburn [and practise].”

The top South Island duo went head-to-head with another pair from Havelock North, where they finished with 159 points, one point away from the winning spot.

While there was no doubt they experienced disappointment, they were just happy to come away with second place, and five trophies.

“We’ve never got that close to winning before.

“I’m just grateful to the UFBA for making it happen for us… to Stephen and also my wife Jan who’s been at every competition.”

A family affair, the men usually competed against their sons

“The camaraderie and the friendship is second to none, we’ve made friends all over New Zealand.”

The challenge allowed for firefighters to hone their skills and every firefighter was welcome to give it a go.