The California Police Olympics were first held in 1967. The concept evolved over the years and led to the creation of the World Police & Fire Games Federation – a non-profit organization, run by the Californian Police Athletics Federation – in 1983. Two years later, in 1985, the first World Police & Fire Games were held in San Jose, California, USA, with nearly 5,000 competitors.
The World Police & Fire Games (WPFG) is now one of the largest multi-sport, multi-venue events in the world, bringing together more than 10,000 athletes from police, fire and other public safety agencies from more than 60 countries, slightly fewer than the Summer Olympic Games, and exceeding the third position holder, the Commonwealth Games. The World Police & Fire Games are held biennially, open to active and retired law enforcement and fire service personnel, to celebrate and honour public safety officials while they compete in 1,600 medal events across 60 sports held over ten days of competition. Sports include traditional Olympic-style competitions as well as events related to the job performance of public safety personnel.
In recent times, The United Kingdom hosted all three events consecutively; the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England, followed by the 2013 World Police and Fire Games in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and ending with Glasgow, Scotland, hosting the 2014 Commonwealth Games - the first time all three events have been hosted by the same nation consecutively.
The largest WPFG games to date was held in New York, New York, USA with over 16,000 athletes in attendance, from 59 nations.
The most successful and best organised was in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 2013. It was described, by the President of the World Police and Fire Games Federation, Mike Graham, as "the friendliest and best Games ever".
This fast paced, nail biting spectacle features two time trial events where firefighters from all over the world aim to squirt down targets and fill barrels full of water. But the Muster is not as easy as it sounds, as thousands of visitors who swarm to the event to get a glimpse of the action soon find out. It requires strength, speed, skill and agility.
Spectators are taken back in time to witness how firefighting was done in yesteryear. The basic skill set of a firefighter remains the same but as modern technology has evolved their skills have had to adapt. This event is extremely dynamic due to its fast pace with no room for error. In essence, this is what firefighters do day in and day out, when they arrive at an incident their aim is to put water on a fire as fast as possible.
The first event, the Hose Cart, consists of a 100m dash whilst pulling a vintage hose cart. One firefighter races ahead with an axe and a hose branch, imbedding the axe into a stump of wood as the team follows close behind. At the end of the track, the hose is unraveled and connected to a water hydrant. The team then shoots water at a target 50 feet away in an attempt to knock it over. The team who squirts their target over the fastest are deemed the winners!
The second part of the Muster is the Bucket Brigade. Teams pitch a ladder against a three storey tower and use canvas buckets to transfer water from a large drum located at its base. Teams race to fill a barrel positioned at the top of the tower which uses a ping-pong ball in a plastic tube as a water level indicator. The team who fills their barrel and forces the ball out of the tube.
"There is an element of fun to these games. You can see the guys spraying the crowd with water. It's firemen at play."