March 16, 2014

How fast can you pull a fire truck? Special Olympics fundraiser offers an answer

Heroes Pull is kind of like a tug-of-war, except the 15 teams didn’t pull each other. Instead they lined up along a burly blue rope, kind of like one you’d climb in gym class. The third annual event, held Sunday at Splash Cove in Shawnee, raised money for Special Olympics Kansas.

What’s the trick to moving a seemingly immovable object — specifically, a fire truck?

Kyle Smith of Olathe, mere minutes after experiencing just such a challenge, minced no words.

“Pull!” he said.

“Pull and pray,” chimed in teammate Will Compton of Overland Park.

A fire truck was just Part 1 for the high school students Sunday afternoon. The team of eight Olathe Police Explorers later moved across a parking lot to an armored tactical vehicle (think SWAT team).

The third annual

Heroes Pull

, at Splash Cove in Shawnee, raised money for Special Olympics Kansas.

Heroes Pull is a tug-of-war, except the 15 teams didn’t pull each other. Instead, they lined up along a burly blue rope, like one you’d climb in gym class.

The signal: “3 2 1 pull!”

One team at a time pulled. Actually, each team pulled twice: first the fire truck, then the boxy armored vehicle, called a Lenco Bear. Each weighs about 20 tons.

The goal: to pull the monster vehicle 50 feet over a line. As fast as you can.

Before the event, some of the pullers — many of them police officers and firefighters — talked strategy. Maureen Rogers, who works for the city of Shawnee, said one philosophy is that more feet on the ground, even lighter-weight people, trumps a team of burly dudes.

But it “probably doesn’t hurt to have one big old guy,” she said.

Heroes Pull takes the matter of weight seriously. A team can’t tip the scales over 1,500 pounds. Group weigh-ins on a 4-foot-by-4-foot industrial scale preceded the competition.

Beauty and the Beast, a team of “civilians,” ended up weighing 15 pounds too much, so members shed boots, coats, even keys.

“It’s cold; everybody’s got three or four layers on,” team captain Jared Pirie said.

Organizers were just glad the light snow Sunday morning gave way to a sunny afternoon, albeit one with a chilly wind.

But back to strategy: Who said everyone has to pull the same way? An Olathe Fire Department team had its front five guys facing the fire truck, its back two facing the other way.

In case you’re wondering how long it takes six to eight people to pull a fire truck, it can be done in 20 seconds. Or less. An Overland Park firefighters team boasted the best time on the truck, 15.4 seconds, and the second-best time pulling the Bear, 13 seconds.

Their combined time meant the OP firefighters claimed the traveling grand champion trophy, which Shawnee police officers carried off the last two years.

Shawnee police detective Virgil Henson and Merriam police Cpl. Jeremiah Waters organized the first Heroes Pull in 2012. They got the idea at a Law Enforcement Torch Run conference.

Calgary, Alberta, where the conference took place, has a locomotive engine pull that requires about 30 people per team.

“We’ve got train tracks that divide Shawnee and Merriam, so initially we started thinking about that,” Henson said.

Ultimately the Heroes Pull co-founders settled on the tactical vehicle to attract law-enforcement officers and the fire truck to get firefighters involved. After all, there’s “always friendly competition between police and fire,” Henson said.

But Sunday’s event also drew teams from a Crossfit gym, a barbershop, a towing company and some Special Olympics athletes.

This year even kids could join in the fun, pulling an Olathe police golf cart.

Organizers said they raised about $11,000 for Special Olympics. Each team had to collect at least $250 to participate.

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