Outside of a large fire, when New Vineyard and New Portland fire departments join together to tackle the blaze, the two departments don’t often interact.

But at the 51st Maine State Federation of Firefighters convention, the firefighters from both towns worked side by side Sunday morning in a friendly competition among more than a dozen fire departments at the Farmington Fairgrounds.

“This is the first time we’ve made it out to a state convention,” said Chief Kip Poulin, of the New Portland Fire Department. He said the accessibility of the convention, about 15 miles from their home station, allowed the department to form a team and join the fun.

“It’s a way to build camaraderie with all the different departments,” he said.

About 600 people attended the convention held this year in Farmington from Friday to Sunday, said organizer Lt. Tim Hardy, of the Farmington Fire Department.

The weekend’s events included a dance, a comedian, a parade and finally a muster on Sunday morning, where teams competed with each other in firefighting races such as linking a hose together across a field, knocking down a target with a water stream and then racing across a finish line.

Near the finish line at the hose race, the Fort Kent Fire Department cheered on each team as they linked together the hose pieces and slid across the finish line.

“We try to come with a crew of guys every year,” said Capt. Richard Stoliker, of the Fort Kent Fire Department.

He said it took four hours to get from their Aroostook County hometown to the hotel in Waterville that the eight volunteer firefighters stayed at during the convention, but said it was worth it to participate in the statewide firefighters event.

The event, Stoliker said, is also a chance not only for the firefighters to mingle but to bring their families together for a weekend of events, a parade and friendly competition.

“At every one of the conventions, we get to meet new friends and see old friends from years past,” he said.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252

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