Firefighters pick up the hose for fun, not work - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Firefighters pick up the hose for fun, not work

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CORALVILLE (KWWL) -

Hundreds of firefighters from Iowa and around the Midwest took time off from putting out fires Saturday to have a little firefighting related fun. The Coralville Fire Department hosted the 38th annual Winter Water Fights.

It's not exactly what you're used to seeing firefighters do---pointing their hoses at a barrel, instead of a fire. Water fights are like tug-of-war for fire departments.

"It's a good time," said Ryan Phillips, Evansdale Fire Department. "It's fun. Look around here---everybody's having fun. Everybody's happy. We're having a good time."

Water fights are a long standing tradition for fire departments. Most are held in the summer but in Coralville, winter fights have been happening for 38 years.

"I think they thought it was some novelty to start in the winter time and obviously we have a huge participating," said Bill Horning, Coralville Fire Department. "Apparently the firefighters like coming out in the winter and having some fun."

Saturday there were about 200 teams. Departments travel from across the Midwest to join in.

"It's fun," said Zachary Froel, Sandwich, Illinois. "Water fighting is just a great time. You meet all the new firemen, hear stories, and it's just a good experience.

The water fights are just a game to the firefighters---and the cold weather is a part of the fun. But the same conditions create dangerous hazards for departments when they're on the job.

"Just the ice is a big thing, cold, hypothermia," said Philips.  "That's one of the bigger deals we have to deal with. You got to keep bundled up, keep your equipment on.

At the water fights, they can shovel away ice as it forms. On the job, that's not an option.

"Water in the cold makes ice and that becomes a big problem for us.," said Horning. "It becomes a huge slip hazard. It can freeze up our gear. It can break our pumps, freeze up our pumps."

Saturday those life or death situations weren't what the firefighters were thinking about. Instead, they just enjoyed the day with some friends they don't get to see very often.

The water fights are an all-day event. Teams are eliminated after they lose one match. The final rounds happen in the dark.

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