NEW CASTLE —
Shenango Township is, well, on fire.
The municipality’s firefighters not only won their third straight Battle in the Boro crown yesterday, but they also did it in blazing fashion. For the second straight year, the department placed first in four of six events and had the team title wrapped up even before the day’s final competition.
In all, Shenango tallied 50 points to finish well ahead of runner-up Union, which had 24, and third-place Hickory, which had 20. Overall, seven local volunteer departments participated at the South New Castle Borough fire hall.
“The department that wins this every year is the one that shows up with the most trained firefighters,” Shenango’s Brandon Rishel said. “It means a whole a lot. We’ve done very, very well. I think we had around 14 people today. By far, I don’t think anybody else was even close to that.
“It really comes down to the number of volunteers that you have and who shows up for this day. It’s tough to get volunteers today, there’s no doubt about it. It comes and goes across the board for every department. Right now, we’re extremely fortunate, we have quite a few good guys.”
Even though Shenango didn’t allow the day to become much of a contest, there were a couple of eye openers. Hickory, for example, finished third despite making just its second appearance in the Battle, and even claimed first place in the hose toss.
Taylor Township fielded a roster of youngsters who won their first-ever round in a water battle and claimed second place in the quick draft.
“We’ve mostly had older guys who have been around for a while, but this year we got a bunch of young guys — seven new ones now, and they range from 16 to 24,” Taylor Chief Dave Allegro said. “They’re all gung-ho this year because they have their own team.
“That’s how this works. It seems like you go through a stagnant period, then you’ll get a new one in. He starts to enjoy it, so he tells his buddy, and he starts to enjoy it and it’s like a domino effect.”
Still, perhaps the day’s biggest surprise came in the tug of war, an event in which Union had been undefeated through the first six years of the Battle. That streak came to an end yesterday with a victory by Shenango.
“The streak had to end sometime,” said Union’s Chad Angiolelli, whose team was without a key member, Chief Steve Stasko. “I’m just glad it took seven years for somebody to do it.
“It’s still a lot of fun, although everybody’s a little sore right now, even Shenango’s guys. I just think we have to recruit some really, really, really big guys.”
Rishel was feeling so good after the event that finishing off the day with the overall crown seemed almost like an afterthought.
“The team title’s not that big of a deal now,” he said. “They’ve held that title every year over the last six years, it’s good to see them lose once.
“It makes you feel good that after seven years, the people all worked out right, that they had a few less people than they normally do, and we had a few more people than we normally do. It worked out good for our favor.”
Though the various rivalries at times may make for some intense competition — not to mention the traditional night-before pranks, such as toilet paper strung from the water battle barrel line or a Smurfs movie poster with each diminutive blue character bearing the name of a Shenango or South New Castle firefighter — the departments all agree that fun and camaraderie remain the order of the day.
“That’s what it’s all about,” said Mahoning Township Deputy Chief Donnie Retort, whose squad joined North Beaver and the host team in rounding out the field. “It’s competitive but it’s fun.”
NEW CASTLE —
Shenango Township is, well, on fire.
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