Firefighters often call their profession a "brotherhood," but many times when different departments come together, it's in response to a catastrophe or to say goodbye to one of their own. Our Sarah Blazonis stopped by one annual gathering that offers a lighthearted atmosphere and a chance to sharpen their skills.
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- The competition is fierce.
"There's a lot of departments around that want it and we've been there," said Eric Cornell, a firefighter with the Marathon FD.
And the pressure is on.
"You'll hear them cheering on one another, but they're very competitive. There's bragging rights to take home," said Doug Van Etten with the Cortland County Firemen's Association.
Those spoils will go to the victors of this year's Firemen's Association of New York Winter Games. Almost 400 firefighters from departments across the state gathered at Greek Peak for their shot at this year's overall title.
But for Donald Fitzgerald's team, who traveled seven hours from Selden, Long Island to be here, things were going...
"Not so good," Capt. Fitzgerald said of his team's progress as of Saturday afternoon.
But he says it's all about having fun. Selden was one of the departments hit hard by Sandy last year.
"We were twenty-foured out to a lot of other towns and everything for water rescues, collapses, everything," Fitzgerald said. "So, we were pretty well involved and right in the middle of it."
The deaths of firefighters in West Webster and Owego also meant the games were especially welcome this year.
"It's nice to have some time to relieve some stress, have some fun and reconnect with friends," Van Etten said.
But of course, it's not all about taking home a trophy. Some of the games, like the hose relay, help firefighters hone their skills.
"No matter what you do on the fire ground, it's teamwork that gets the job done and this is just a part of that little scenario," said FASNY First Vice President Robert McConville.
Teamwork will once again be needed when some departments head downstate to more than two feet of snow.
"There's a lot going on down there. We're not sure what we're walking into yet. But we know when we get out of here, we've got work to do," said Fitzgerald.
And win or lose, they know their competition today could be their helping hand tomorrow.