LEE COUNTY, Fl. - About 4,000 professional firefighters and their families have stormed Lee County. It's the annual Florida fire fighter games.
For two weeks, they're competing in a whole range of sports. Their softball tournament and found out the games are a highlight for these first responders.>
Trading in fire hoses for bats, helmets for baseball caps, but keeping the fire for the heat of competition.
"There's always going to be a little competition between departments, it may get a little ugly but we never cross the line," says Reginald Brown, a firefighter from Tallahassee.
"It's a macho thing, you know firefighters love to be the best at whatever we do and coming out here to prove that on the field," says Tony Chin from Broward County.
For 17 days, more than 4,000 professional firefighters from departments all over the state are in Lee County taking each other on in 40-plus events.
"Everything from arm wrestling to volleyball," says Scott Scherr, the president with the Florida Firefighter Games.
They're all competing for the gold medal in the Florida Firefighter Games. The competition started 41 years ago with just seven departments in Miami. Now, about 200 participate every year.
For these emergency workers, it's a something they look forward to each time. Not just for the competition but also as a break from thier normal high stress careers.
"Meeting all the guys that I've made friends with over the years and sitting around, sitting in the parking lot drinking beer and reminicing about the old times and just enjoying each other. That's the best part of the whole trip," Brown adds.
"Nice economic impact for the county and the community's a little safer for these two weeks," adds Scherr.
Organizers say other states like South Carolina are interested in started their own state firefighter games. They plan on using many of Florida's ideas for rules and events. The games continue through May 11th.