PROVO -- Fire engines were pulled, axes flew, walls were broken down and pull-up bars conquered at the Utah Fire and Rescue Academy's Fire Games, Wednesday. At the UVU program's fire training facility near the Provo Airport, graduating recruits pitted themselves against a team of alumni in a series of fun competitions that simulate the challenges firefighters face on the job. The games have become a tradition at the academy, giving the recruits an outlet to blow off some steam after an intense period of training.

"Everything we do in here is so structured and serious and it's all about performing the best you can because it's life and death," said Jake Dennison, an instructor at the academy. "But when you come to a fun competition like this, it's not life or death. It's about fun."

Some of the events are just for competition, such as seeing who can do the most pull-ups or which team can pull a fire engine filled with 800 gallons of water down the length of the garage fastest. 

"I hope you're not going to be pulling a fire engine on a call. ... That would be really bad," said Jared Orum, captain of the alumni team. Other events, however, simulate real-life scenarios in which firefighters may find themselves. 

In the Firefighter Self Rescue event, teams of three faced off to see how fast they could bust through two layers of drywall and then squeeze between wood framing the fastest -- the same way they might have to escape through the wall of a burning home if they couldn't find their way out.

The teams also compete to see who can don their fire fighting gear fastest. The turnout, as it's called, is an important part of a firefighter's daily routine. The standard for the academy is to be able to do a turnout in 50 seconds. 

"That's the bread and butter of the fire industry, is quickness," Orum said. "Making sure you're able to get stuff done so you can get to somewhere that you're needed."

After the games are completed, the recruits have a little down time before walking across the stage for their graduation ceremony that night.

"It feels good," Class 66 recruit Scott Copeland said of finishing his training. "It was a really challenging time going through the whole academy." 

In the end, the new recruits of Class 66, named as such because they are the 66th graduating class from the academy, squeaked out a win over the alumni team, winning five out of the nine events.

"It was good, they were talking a lot of trash before," Copeland said. "We were a little nervous, they had the biggest and the best from the last 10 years and we just had our class to compete, but we did well."

-- Spenser Heaps is a staff photographer covering everything from community events to breaking news to portraits.
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