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Teamwork key at Genoa Days water fights

The Bartlett Fire Protection District team, left, battles the Wilmot, Wis., Volunteer Fire 
Dept. in the championship water fight match on Saturday at Genoa Days.
The Bartlett Fire Protection District team, left, battles the Wilmot, Wis., Volunteer Fire Dept. in the championship water fight match on Saturday at Genoa Days.

GENOA – On a soggy, then sunny, then sultry Saturday, 15 five-person firefighting teams battled for supremacy using one of nature’s most powerful forces: Water.

The annual water fight, which involved a record-number of teams at Genoa Days, cooled down more than 100 spectators. The water fight goes back 40 to 50 years in the 78-year history of Genoa Days. The Genoa-Kingston Fire Dept. sponsors Genoa Days as its biggest fund raiser of the year.

The Bartlett team took top honors this year, followed by the Wilmot, Wis., team in second place, the Kirkland team in third, and the Trevor, Wis., team in fourth.

CJ Herrmann, Genoa-Kingston firefighter and a 14-year water fight veteran, explained that water fight matches occur on a 20-foot by 70-foot outdoor court on North Genoa Street. Each team, using water from fire hoses set at 70 pounds per square inch of pressure – a fraction of the 300 psi a fire hose can deliver – aim hoses at an old-school, 25-pound aluminum beer barrel.

The object is to use water pressure to push the barrel past the opposing team.

Matches start similar to hockey. Wearing boots, helmets, eye and other protective gear, opposing teams face each other, 70 feet apart, with hoses turned on full blast and pointing near the barrel. At the whistle, both teams aim their hoses at the barrel and advance.

The water pressure is enough to peel paint off the barrel and lob it around like a ping-pong ball.

Matches typically last less than a minute as teams push the barrel toward a goal line. If a team pushes the barrel past the nozzle of the opposing team’s hose, it usually wins that match. If both teams keep the barrel stationary, the crowd gets a cool mist from the overspray.

A GKFD pumper truck supplies water for each team.

Timing and accuracy are everything, Herrmann said.

“It’s who’s on the barrel or who isn’t,” he said. “If you ain’t on the barrel, it’ll go right by you.”

Richard Gustafson, who captained the winning Bartlett team, said Saturday’s win “feels good. It’s my first win ever.”

Gustafson, who also serves on the Hampshire Fire Protection District, has been water fighting about a decade.

“It’s really just the whole team coming together,” Gustafson said. “It is teamwork. If one guy is a half a step off, even at the back of the line, you can feel it on the nozzle and miss the barrel. So it takes front-to-back [coordination]. We just worked together, the whole time, making one less mistake than the other guy.”

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