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Pala Fire Department staffs arena suppression trucks at Firefighters Destruction Derby


June 11, 2014
The Firefighters Demolition Derby held June 7 as part of the San Diego County Fair had arena fire suppression teams for the first time, and the Pala Fire Department provided one of the teams.

The Pala Fire Department's Unit 6612 was stationed at the north end of the arena while a Rainbow Volunteer Fire Department unit was on standby at the south end of the arena.

In 1995 the Cajon Speedway, the Burn Institute, and local fire departments collaborated for an annual night, which included fundraising and promotions for the Burn Institute, a pre-race parade of fire trucks, an American flag raised from a fire engine ladder for the Star-Spangled Banner, and a Firefighters Destruction Derby. The Burn Institute and local firefighters also collaborated for an annual exposition and burn run at Qualcomm Stadium.

The Cajon Speedway closed after the 2004 season, but in 2010 the exposition was moved to the San Diego County Fair. Some changes due to the configuration of the Del Mar Arena were necessary. The parade of fire trucks takes place earlier in the day, the flag is not raised from a ladder inside the covered arena, and the cars are divided into heats. The current format involves two early afternoon heats with the last three running cars in each heat advancing to the finals, and a pair of last chance heats in the late afternoon allow the last remaining car in each of those two heats entry into the final crunchfest which follows the cleanup activity from the second last chance heat.

In 2013, another difference between Cajon Speedway and the fairgrounds version was recognized. Cajon Speedway had a regular fire crew with a truck to extinguish vehicle fires. The fair used fire extinguishers for the first four years. Last year the car of CalFire firefighter Angel Hendrie became engulfed in flames. Hendrie was unhurt, and changes were made to reduce the risk of car fires.

One of those changes was the presence of suppression teams, with a truck as well as a firefighting crew, at each end of the arena. "I think they ramped it up a little bit this year," said Unit 6612 captain Jay Hearn.

The 2014 Firefighters Destruction Derby had 17 cars with nine in the first heat and eight in the second heat. During the first heat the Pala fire suppression unit saw action to extinguish flames under the hood of San Diego firefighter Joe Kennedy's car. "Gas was still in his exhaust," Hearn said. "It was just igniting right there."

Imperial Beach firefighter Ehren Kahle won the demolition derby.

"It's a blast. We want to be back here again next year. Probably one of the funnest Burn Institute events, I think, of the year," Hearn said.

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