About Us | NYS Drill Teams

For over 100 years, fire departments throughout New York State have competed against each other to measure their skills. As motor-driven firefighting equipment was introduced, firemen incorporated these vehicles into their events, alongside more traditional tests of stretching hose and hoisting ladders. These competitions have evolved into a terrific display of basic firefighting skills and teamwork, exhibitions that are one-of-a-kind around the world. Your volunteer department is welcome to compete, and we are here to show you how. .

Mission Statement

Drill teams are a vital component of the department they serve, with the specific purpose of providing the opportunity to hone basic firefighting proficiencies, develop and foster teamwork, build character, teach commitment and discipline, promote physical fitness and conditioning and attract and retain individuals in the volunteer fire service. These purposes are achieved through firematic competition which complements the fire department's primary function of emergency response to fires, medical emergencies, and other calamities. Drill teams consequently instill their members with a life-long commitment to serving their community as highly skilled volunteer firefighters.

I recommend all departments take on an aggressive recruitment and retention campaign, and a department drill team should be considered as a terrific supplement to that program.
- Bob McConville   
Former President, FASNY
The board of the NYS Association of Fire Chiefs has officially recognized NYS Drill Team competition as a top-notch recruitment and retention program.
- Don Corkery   
NYS Association of Fire Chiefs

Benefits of Maintaining A Drill Team

  • 1. Recruitment & Retention

    Convincing today's youth to volunteer is getting increasingly difficult. In order to keep new members coming in, departments state-wide have been budgeting for major public relations campaigns, and major marketing including print, TV, and online advertising. These programs have delivered mixed results. On the other hand, drill teams are cost-effective ways to turn heads and draw interest. When a youngster sees the drill teams compete, they ask one question: "How do I get in?" After they join, they grow a passion for firefighting as a whole, and with the right direction, become effective firefighters for your community. Drill teams keep them in your department longer as well, important since we all know that an experienced firefighter is priceless in the fire service.

  • 2. Team building & Department Pride

    Team Building Exercises aren't just corporate mumbo-jumbo. Local, state and federal government agencies across the country invest in team building exercises to build trust and develop interpersonal working skills. Your department's drill team becomes a way for your firefighters to learn how to come together for a greater good. A successful team is a source of great pride for our departments, and gives every department something to rally behind. Your drill team also helps develop leadership qualities in the members entrusted with managing and overseeing the team.

  • 3. Athletic Activity

    High Schools have football teams. Fire Departments have drill teams. Drill teams practice two times a week, and compete throughout the summer. Some contests include our Class B and C apparatus, others include the members alone. Watch the "Buckets" event, where twelve 45lb buckets are lifted to the arch, and you'll see a team of firefighters working together as athletes. Your drill team will leave the summer healthier and in better shape, a priority for all fire departments.

  • 4. Practice Under Pressure

    Structure fires are down across the country, and that's a good thing. But firefighters know that delivering under pressure is a learned skill, and recreating the intensity of the fire attack is very difficult. The most successful drill teams learn how to perform when the pressure is on. Drill teams have to eliminate distractions, and perform at their best to be successful. Most important, drill team competition takes backbone. When two members from your drill team are entering a second floor window of a private dwelling to VEIS above the fire, you know they won't freeze, or fake a malfunction of their SCBA; Drill team competition and firefighting takes guts.

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Ranked Reasons for
Maintaining a Drill Team


#1 Recruitment & Retention


#2 Team Building & Department Pride


#3 Athletic Activity


#4 Practice Under Pressure


#5 Firefighting Skills


#6 Networking

  • 5. Firefighting Skills

    Drill teams across the state have been competing since the late 1800s. As such, many drill team events might seem simple compared to today's firefighting evolutions. But the basics are still the same: raising, climbing and operating on ladders, connecting to hydrants, connecting hose couplings and advancing hoselines are all useful skills on the fireground, and drill team members can perform these tasks flawlessly. Your department might not be using the bucket brigade anytime soon, but they WILL need to work as a team - departments across the state benefit when their members know how to work together. In motorized competition, the vehicles used are obviously disparate from those used in emergency responses, but their operation, pumps, and equipment are similar to what would be expected on the fireground.

  • 6. Networking

    Fire Departments throughout the state rely on mutual aid to ensure the safety of their residents. Your next structure fire is not the time to introduce yourself to your neighboring department. At every drill, firefighters from across the area are making contacts and building professional relationships that will benefit their department as a whole. In the corporate world, they call this "networking", but our departments call it family. Next time you need a standby, you want to know how a department runs supply lines, or you want to get some time at a department's training simulator, you can rely on your drill team connections for help.

* Percentages indicate what percentage of respondents agree with the rank of the indicated benefit. For example, 84% represents the amount of participants who consider Retention & Recruitment as the #1 reason why they maintain a drill team. 64% indicates the amount that consider Department Pride as the #2 reason, etc.

Our Mission

NYS Drill Teams is a professional league of volunteer firefighters from across NY State who compete in firematic competitions. These competitions are geared towards honing basic firefighting proficiencies, developing and fostering teamwork, character-building, commitment, discipline, physical fitness and conditioning. Participation in the league complements each fire department's primary function of emergency response to fires, medical emergencies, and other calamities, while instilling members with a life-long commitment to serving their community as highly skilled volunteer firefighters.

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