Firefighters have spent plenty of time battling wildfires in Southwest Colorado this summer, but in August they’ll gather in Mancos for a more cheerful occasion.
The Mancos Fire Protection District plans to host the 80th annual Tri-State Firemen’s Association Convention. Held on Aug. 3 and 4, the convention is an annual training session and competition for participating fire departments in Colorado and New Mexico. Mancos Fire Chief Tony Aspromonte said he expects almost 300 firefighters and their families to attend this year, making up 14 teams that will compete for prizes at an awards banquet on Aug. 4.
The Firemen’s Association currently consists of 18 member fire departments, both volunteer and professional. The Cortez, Dolores, Lewis-Arriola, Mancos, Rico and Ute Mountain Fire Departments are members, and Southwest Colorado has hosted many past conventions. Each of the Association’s annual conventions are designed to allow member firefighters to spend two days honing a specific firefighting skill. Past conventions have focused on high incline rescues, vehicle extraction, meth lab response, prefire planning and more.
This year, in the group’s 80th annual convention, Aspromonte said participants will train in quick, accurate hose-laying. Firefighters will train each morning and spend each afternoon putting that training to work in hose-laying contests at the Mancos Fire Station. Awards will be given out at the end of the weekend to the winning teams.
Conventiongoers will also have a family-friendly “comedy night” on Aug. 4, put on by firefighter families. Aug. 5 will begin with a memorial service for first responders who have died in the past year.
Mancos has hosted the Firemen’s Association convention four times before, in 1984, 1994, 2002 and 2010. During that time, Aspromonte said, both the convention and the Firemen’s Association as a whole have gone through some major ups and downs, seeing a significant decline in membership in the early 2000s. There are no fire departments from Arizona left in the group, for example. But Aspromonte said the convention is slowly starting to grow again. More than 270 people have signed up for this year’s event.
Although the event itself is only for firefighters and their families, it does help the local economy, Aspromonte said. “All of our food service stuff comes from local businesses,” he said. The meals the Fire Department provides for convention-goers will all come from the P&D Grocery, Millwood Junction, Chavolo’s and other local businesses.
Although the convention is mostly geared toward firefighters, Aspromonte said the public is invited to watch the competitions, which start at 1 p.m. each day.