The rescue team rushed in and put out both fires within seconds Sunday, right after the flames spilled out from under the vehicles.
Fortunately, the fires were well-regulated and under control long before they started at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds, Davenport, during the Speedway Fire-Rescue’s annual annual Motorsports Conference held Saturday and Sunday.
A group of Quad-City area volunteers who continuously work to protect life and property around race tracks in the region participated in two days of classroom and hands-on activities in various aspects of fire and rescue in the Keppy 4-H Building as well as outdoor exercises that included the two brief burns Sunday afternoon. The annual training will help prepare the group for the 2013 racing season, said organization founder, chief Gil Short of Moline, who formed the group in 1966.
At the time, his cousins raced stock cars, and he realized that there was no fire protection provided at the events. He then started a fire equipment sales and service company and owned it for many years.
Recruitment, he said, “was kind of a gradual thing.” One by one, racers and racing fans began to join the group that grew in demand at local race tracks, Short said.
Now, the group is a welcome addition at tracks in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin and also volunteers at the Quad-City Air Show, he said.
Some members have backgrounds as emergency responders, including firefighters, he said. But all that’s necessary to join is passing a background check, participating in monthly training and helping at motorsports events.
Gary Grubbs, of Davenport, is vice president of the group. He has been a member for 31 years.
“A buddy of mine got me involved in it,” he said. He says he and other volunteers stay involved because of “the love of the sport and the brotherhood — it’s like a fire department. We’re like family,” he said.
Don Christison, of Moline, is the training coordinator for the group and said that volunteers try to plan for worst-case scenarios.
“You never can have everybody prepared for that, but you do the best you can,” he said. “You never know what’s going to happen out there.”
The volunteers go to dozens of events every year — one year, they attended 260 different events. Clad in yellow suits, with helmets and other protective gear, the Speedway Fire-Rescue members stand by in case they need to extinguish a fire to make way for emergency responders.
Karri Coyne, of Davenport, the group’s secretary and training coordinator, has been involved for 11 years.
“The whole organization is family-oriented,” she said. While the group prepared to watch and address the two burn activities Sunday, she said new members learn when they see an experienced team put out fires at these trainings.
The team effort involved someone running the hose, another volunteer unreeling the hose and yet another helping control the hose so that all the hot spots on the vehicles were put out within seconds.
They also must know how to fight fires fueled by both gasoline and alcohol. Gasoline, Short said is a much more volatile fuel than alcohol — “You get high, big flames out of it,” he said. “Alcohol, when that’s burning in the daytime, you can only see the fumes from it.”
On Sunday, the group adjourned from indoors to the west part of the track, where two gasoline fires a created “crash” were set and then extinguished in a recreation of what might occur at a stock car race.
“The fairgrounds and (General Manager) Bob Fox are really good to us,” Short said, adding that, “We clean up after ourselves when we’re done.”
Short noted that the 30-60 volunteers now include family members from different generations, including a cadet program for younger volunteers.
“Hopefully, that’ll be my legacy,” he said.