Cherokee County Fire and Emergency Services’ Explorer Post #469 participated in the 39th annual Winterfest Competition in Gatlinburg, Tenn., last weekend and brought home six trophies.
More than 3,200 people representing states from across the Southeast attended the event to compete in drills that would test their skills and knowledge in the fire and emergency services field.
Cherokee Fire and EMS spokesman Tim Cavender said Explorer Post #469 had 16 youth to compete against more than 60 teams.
For the fourth year in a row, the local Explorers post hosted the Pittsburg Drill exercise again this year and dedicated the drill in memory of Donna Westbrook, wife of Cherokee County EMA Director Robby Westbrook, who died in an automobile accident last year.
“Donna and Robby have always been major supporters of the Cherokee County Fire Explorer Post,” Cavender said.
During Saturday’s event, the fire Explorers scored first and second place in the Pittsburgh Drill, which simulates rescuing a down firefighter and forces Explorers to climb through multiple obstacles to get him to safety.
The group also scored first and second place in the Z-Drag, where they were required to rig a rope rescue system to assist in the removal of a victim from a hostile environment.
The youth also took first place in the “Save Your Skin” drill.
“This event resembled a crew of disoriented firefighters having to locate their hose line and navigate their way out of a hostile environment with only seconds to spare,” Cavender said.
Finally, the group placed first in the “Secret Knots” drill, where they were given a random series of traditional fire department knots to tie in a matter of seconds.
Assistant Fire Chief Eddie Robinson said he was pleased with the effort the fire explorers put into learning the profession.
“The accomplishments of this past weekend were outstanding and demonstrates their dedication,” Robinson said.
In his seventh trip to Winterfest since becoming a chief officer, Cherokee County Fire Chief Tim Prather added he was very proud of the young men and women.
“Each year seems to be better than the previous years,” Prather said. “Last year, we brought home the most trophies ever… (This year) we tied that number, but for the first time, we earned four first place spots. Again, the best ever. I’m amazed each year by this group.”
Prather thanked the advisors, support staff and the families of the fire Explorers for their time and effort in helping the young adults succeed.
Cavender said preparations for these events began in fall 2012. On behalf of the Explorers, Cavender thanked all of the advisors that worked with the youth to prepare them for Winterfest and a future career in the fire service.
Those advisors in attendance were: Sgt. Scott Deal, Firefighter Michael Sims, retired Capt. Bill Hamby, Capt. Tom Pelletier, Capt. Mark Orr, Sgt. Micheal Poulson, Sgt. Mike Caglioni, Sgt. Brad Gravitt, Firefighter Jordon Seda, Firefighter Rebecca Strobl, Kathy Lawson, and Assistant Fire Chief Eddie Robinson.
He also thanked Prather and Westbrook, as well as the other department personnel, friends, and families who came out to support the local fire Explorers post.