In the lead up to this year’s Olympic Games, we are excited to be able to share some fantastic fire-related content with you. So, you might be thinking – how could there possibly be a link between an international multi-sport event, such as the Olympic Games, and fire? Well, the emergency services have their own version of this major biennial sporting event: the World Police and Fire Games.
A World First: The 1985 World Police and Fire Games at San Jose, California
While perhaps not as well-known as the Olympic Games, the World Police and Fire Games continues to be a significant multi-sport, multi-venue event that attracts over 10,000 athletes from emergency services departments (just below the attendance levels seen at the Summer Olympic Games!).
Following the success of the California Police Olympics, the non-profit World Police & Fire Games Federation was established in 1983 to plan for a combined emergency services (and global) event. Just two years later, they held the first World Police and Fire Games in San Jose, California, USA. The competition attracted a whopping 5,000 athletes and ran for nine consecutive days (3 – 11 August 1985), boasting an ambitious selection of 41 separate sports from archery through to wrestling.
A full list of the sports that were on offer are included below:
Basketball Bowling Boxing Crew Cross Country
Cycling Equestrian Golf Handball
Judo Karate Marathon
Motocross Muster - Hose Cart
Pentathlon Pistol Pocket Billiards
Police Service Dogs
Racquetball Rifle - Large Bore
Rifle - Small Bore
Skeet Soccer Softball - Fast Pitch
Softball - Slopitch
Swimming Table Tennis
Tennis Track & Field Trap Triathlon
Although many of the events appeared to be tailored to their American counterparts, overseas organisations (including the NSW Fire Brigades today known as Fire and Rescue NSW) were determined to try their luck in at least some individual events.
NSW Fire Brigades’ Involvement
Keen to be recognised for their sporting talent, the NSW Fire Brigades did not want to miss the opportunity to be represented at the first World Police and Fire Games.
The Sports Council, led by President, Superintendent Warwick Rogers, was a strong player (pun intended) in rallying support and funding for attendance. The selection process was also called into question at an initial committee meeting comprising Sports Council delegates and other interested parties.
To ‘pave the way to San Jose’, District Officer John Craige and Firefighter Bob Stewart of the New South Wales Fire Brigades spent nine days in America in 1984. During this tour, they confirmed travel arrangements and facilities for their colleagues' stay the following year. Everything was falling into place.
Pictured above: Firefighters at Mascot Airport, 28 July 1985, preparing to leave for the World Police and Fire Games in San Jose, California, August 1985. Pictured (L to R): SO Allan Spink, DO Eric Cribbon, FF Wally Eagle, SO Jack Brownjohn, Board Secretary John Galbraith and FF Max Jarvis.
Achieving Success: Four Gold, One Silver, Two Bronze
In an opening statement to the October 1985 edition of Fire News, Editor Tim Gavan noted:
“Congratulations also to our victorious athletes for their success at the World Police and Fire Games in San Jose in August. They too left an incredible mark on the games and their success should motivate others who didn’t go this time but who will represent the Brigade in years to come”.
It is obvious by this assertion that the team of four fared well in their athletic endeavours. Station Officer Jack Brownjohn, Firefighter Wally Eagle, Station Officer Mick Guider and Firefighter Max Jarvis each brought a unique set of skills to the competition.
Wally Eagle placed in the 4 x 400 m track event relay, receiving a bronze medal, while Jack Brownjohn proved his strength as a swimmer, bringing home all of the NSWFBs four gold medals, one silver and one bronze – an amazing effort! Interestingly, the Museum’s collection includes several of Brownjohn’s jackets that he wore for the 1985 and 1987 World Police and Fire Games.
There have been 18 editions of the World Police and Fire Games with the next to take place in Rotterdam in 2022. Good luck to everyone who will wear the green and gold!
We'd also like to wish all of our athletes taking place in the upcoming Olympic Games all the best as well! Aussie Aussie Aussie! Oi Oi Oi!
-Story by Laura Anderson, Museum of Fire Curator (who is a Kiwi, but in this instance is happy to cheer on the green and gold!)