- The Washington Times - Monday, July 15, 2002

A bunch of Montgomery County firefighters drove like they were on emergency runs yesterday, but since no lives were at stake, they enjoyed every minute of it.
Mike Glazier, 36, out of Rockville-Darnestown Station 31, made the run in 4 minutes and 34 seconds, driving a 47-foot-long firetruck that weighed 30 tons.
He won first place in that event of the first annual Apparatus Drive Rodeo at the police and fire training academy west of Rockville.
"It's a lot like the real thing," said Mr. Glazier, a Peary High School graduate who chose to become a firefighter instead of a career policeman like his father.
"I love every minute of it," said Russell "Blinky" Blinkhorn, 25, out of Silver Spring Station 19.
"This is fun for us," said Mr. Blinkhorn, who has been a fireman for four years and was a volunteer for five years before that.
Mr. Blinkhorn came in second, although his run took 4 minutes and 15 seconds. The trouble is, he hit six orange cones. The penalty was 5 seconds per cone, so his total recorded time was 4 minutes and 45 seconds.
The professional and volunteer firefighters drove a truck or ambulance through long rows of cones, set up like rows of parked cars, narrow alleys, twisted driveways and dead ends. Then they backed through the cones twice.
The purpose of the rodeo is to improve the driving skills of the firefighters, said Capt. Kenneth Korenblatt, 43. The drivers in the rodeo had not had a preventable collision in the previous year.
Capt. Korenblatt said department officials had examined the previous year's records of collisions. Then they compared that rate with other departments in the Washington metropolitan area.
"We were about the same," Capt. Korenblatt said. "We looked at our accident ratio. We want to get them down."
The drivers were closely watched. Two were disqualified because they failed to fasten their seat belts.
What some would call distractions were allowed. For instance, Pete Andreallo, 34, played "classic rock" music as he careened an ambulance around the course in 3 minutes and 49 seconds plus 35 seconds for hitting seven cones.
"It helps me concentrate," said Mr. Andreallo, who spent five years in the Army before he joined the department 10 years ago.
The cones were set up in patterns established for nationwide competition, said Samuel Martinez, 39, a fireman for 20 years working out the Takoma Park Station.
"I enjoy the backing up part," said Mr. Glazier, holding his winning plaque of a bronze-colored fireman's helmeted head on varnished wood.
Similar smaller plaques were given to the second and third-place drivers.
All drivers got tote-bags and black, canvas identification-card neck loops.


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