Plumbers Local 290 defend ‘broomball’ title from Fire Fighters

Apprentices from Plumbers and Fitters Local 290 battled members of Fire Fighters Local 43 to a 0-0 tie in their annual “broomball” hockey game to promote residential fire sprinkler systems.

The game was held Jan. 8 between periods of the Portland Winterhawks-Seattle Thunderbirds hockey game at the Rose Garden. Local 290 and the Portland Mechanical Contractors Association are sponsors of the Winterhawks. Each year they, along with Local 43, promote fire safety through the broomball event. In broomball, contestants don tennis shoes and plastic brooms and try to slap a foam ball into the net. Local 290 is the defending champion, having beat the firefighters last year 1-0.

And though the event was meant for fun and camaraderie, the more serious issue at hand was promoting home fire sprinkler systems.

According to a study by the Fire Protection Research Foundation, more than 8 in 10 fire deaths occur in homes, yet the likelihood of someone dying in a home fire is cut in half when sprinklers are present.

Studies by the U.S. Fire Administration indicate that residential fire sprinkler systems can eliminate hundreds of millions of dollars in property losses and, of course, make it safer for firefighters, too.

Members of Local 290 and their signatory contractors are trained to install home fire sprinkler systems.

“Local 290 provided classes on fire sprinkler code, design, calculations, and installation for well over 500 of our members,” said Jed Scheuermann, assistant coordinator at the training center. “We have some 20 contractors well qualified to do installations. They include approximately 10 in the metro-Portland area, 10-plus in Astoria, Bend, Coos Bay, Eugene/Springfield, Klamath Falls, Medford, and even Eureka, California.”

As part of Local 290’s Winterhawks sponsorship, the union promotes its state-of-the-art apprenticeship training center. For the past several years it has held a “Local 290 Player of the Month” contest, whereby fans vote via the Winterhawks website for the hardest working player for the month. The winner is announced at a pre-game ceremony and an apprentice is selected by the Local 290 training center staff to present the player with $100 and be honored themselves. On Jan. 8, apprentice Seathl Ollgaard presented $100 to Winterhawk Sven Bartschi.

“This ceremony is another great way for the public to see who we really are as people and to educate them about the exciting innovations our trade is developing,” Scheuermann said.

The promotional campaign appears to be working. Former Winterhawk Shane Halifax is a first-year apprentice plumber. He played broomball, and was brought in for the ceremonial puck drop prior to the Portland-Seattle game, which the Winterhawks won, 2-1.

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