Randy weighs 180 pounds, is easy going, and takes a lot of abuse.
This weekend, the honorary member of the Digby Fire Department is going to be thrown repeatedly into frigid ocean water and wait to be rescued by water safety boats.
He will have to endure a car crash scenario six times, as the car he is in is flipped upside down or sideways. For 20 minutes he will have to wait for rescue, as firefighters shatter windshield glass, crunch through the metal bodywork of the car with powerful tools, or pry open the doors with the jaws of life.
Randy—or Rescue Randy, as he’s also known—is a rubberized, life-sized doll firefighters use for training. And he is about to have a busy weekend in the inaugural Digby Fire Truck Rally.
To get ready for the car extraction demonstration, the Digby fire department team of five has been practicing hard on an old car.
“We’ve been doing it two nights a week, flipping it upside down, or on its side and cutting it open, breaking the glass,” said deputy chief Justin Wood, part of Digby’s car team.
Five other fire departments will participate against Digby, and all teams have just 20 minutes to do as much as they can to save Randy before time runs out.
Each team will be evaluated on precision, safety, efficiency by Code Four, who are running the event, and providing the powerful tools like cutters, spreaders and the Jaws of Life.
“The first thing you have to do is get it safe,” said Wood. “You have to make the car safe for you before you go in, so we block it up, putting wooden blocks under the tires, bracing the vehicle.”
While the vehicle extraction challenge will be fun to watch—cars get peeled apart, windows broken—it also offers a really good training opportunity for all the departments that participate. They will receive feedback from Code Four, about what to improve on, or any mistakes that are made.
“It’s going to be a learning experience for everyone involved,” said Rebecca Connell, another of Digby’s firefighters.
On top of practicing for each challenge, firefighters have been busy finding junk cars, building stands and canteens for the town boardwalk, and waxing and shining trucks for the parade.
Fire chief Robbie Morgan chief said firefighters are “very excited about the truck rally. I’ve talked to representatives and vendors all around the province and a lot of people are excited about it. It should be a great weekend.”
Firefighter and town councilor Mike Bartlett, the mastermind behind the new event, hopes for good weather and a good turnout.
Organizers are hoping for at least 30 trucks for the parade, with vehicles from Kentville, Elmsdale, New Minas, Kingston, St. Bernard, Annapolis Royal, Weymouth, Freeport, Smith’s Cove, Brighton-Barton, Departments of Fisheries and Oceans, and Natural Resources, plus many others.
“We have 22 pretty well confirmed, but there could be up to 60 to 70,” Bartlett said. The number is dependent on how busy each department is. The parade will also feature veterans riding in red convertibles.
While everyone is hoping for a successful inaugural event, the rally is sure to grow in coming years.
“The Wharf Rat Rally started with 250 bikes the first year, and now they are up to 8,000,” said Bartlett.
The first Digby Fire Truck Rally kicks off with truck registration, vendors lining up along Admiral’s Walk, a midway carnival beginning at noon in the parking lot in front of the Digby Courier, and opening ceremonies at six p.m.
The first of three competitive life saving challenges, which pit participating fire departments against each other in an entertaining and educational display, is the Bucket Brigade Challenge. It starts at 7 p.m. at Digby Centre beside the marina.
The rally begins with food—a firefighters’ breakfast from 7 to 10 a.m. in the Digby Fire Department. Again, tables of street vendors will line Admiral’s Walk, selling various items and food.
At 10:30 a.m., an aerial display, put on by the Department of Natural Resources, will take off from Admirals Walk.
One of the main events of the weekend, the Fire Truck Parade, starts at 11 a.m.
At 2 p.m. in the harbour waters, the Rescue Boat Challenge will start. Rescue Randy will be thrown in the water, and each team will start from the marina, find him, and send at least one firefighter into the water to help rescue him. The competition will be judged based on efficiency, safety and time.
Bingo players can head to the Digby Fire Department at 6:30 p.m.
A night on the marina starts at 7:30 p.m., with a concert by ‘Studibakerpie’, followed by a fireboat parade of lights and fireworks.
The day begins with another firefighters’ breakfast, vendors, midway, and family fair, following the same timetable as Saturday.
At 2 p.m. is the final emergency rescue challenge of the weekend, the Vehicle Extraction Challenge. Head down to Water Street to see six junk cars be flipped upside down and then torn apart, as each fire department team does its best to get Rescue Randy out of the vehicle in 20 minutes or less.
From 4 - 6 p.m. there will be raffle draws, and the rally wrap-up.