The Macon-Bibb Fire Department is known for more than putting out fires. They also are known for for their ability to win the Cherry Blossom Festival Bed Race.
The department has lost only one race in the more than 20 years that the race has been held, Sarah Harkins, CBF program director, previously told the Telegraph.
Reco Stephens, the training chief of the Macon-Bibb Fire Department, said they have a strategy that has helped the team win every year.
“You have to have strength, as well as speed, in order to push the bed with a person inside of it,” he said. “We’re very competitive.”
The department holds tryouts for the competition a little more than a month before the race, he said. The tryouts consist of 50-yard dashes with and without a 25-pound vest. Stephen said he chooses the fastest and strongest firefighters to compete.
After the firefighters are chosen, it’s training time.
Stephens said the training involves placing different firefighters in different racing positions to see which combination works the best. There are five positions: two firefighters on one side of the bed, two firefighters on the other side and a driver.
“For instance, we can’t have two of the strongest firefighters on one side because it kind of offsets the center of gravity, I guess, when they’re pushing the bed,” Stephens said.
Lt. Kedrick Marcus, who’s in his third year of coaching the team, said they run 100-yard dashes in training to make sure they are running further than the actual race.
Stephens said they also practice synchronizing their steps on the track at Central High School.
“Since I’ve been the training chief (since) 2013, we have always been first place,” Stephens said. “I plan on keeping it that way.”
What about the equipment? The bed that the department uses was donated to them by the Walthall Oil Company, Stephens said.
The bed the firefighters used before was very heavy and not as aerodynamic as the donated bed.
“We’ve actually been coming in first place with the bed that they donated to us so we definitely owe them some acknowledgment behind that,” Stephens said.
He said the race helps build camaraderie between the firefighters and it also helps them develop relationships with the community.
“Most of the time that the community sees us it’s under some bad circumstances, so it’s good that they can see us having fun and just interacting with the community and other firefighters and other fire departments,” Stephens said.
Marcus said the competition gives the community some insight on how firefighters train and how they prepare to fight fires.
For this year’s race, members of the Macon-Bibb Fire Department said they are hoping for some more serious competition for other participants.
“People sometimes get tired of seeing the same people coming in first place, so we just welcome all competitors, and we look forward to racing with them,” Stephens said.