Minnesota’s Wildland Firefighters Curl and Play Hockey to Support a Great Cause
Nearly 250 wildland firefighters and their families from Minnesota and nearby states braced the winter storm to raise over $35,000 for the Wildland Firefighter Foundation (WFF) on Saturday, January 18, 2020. Held annually in Walker, Minnesota since 2014, the 9th annual “Wildfire On Ice” curling bonspiel, hockey tournament, and banquet was a success.
The event draws together Minnesota's wildland firefighting community, during the off-season, to raise funds in support of fellow firefighters throughout the United States, and their family members, who are either injured or have fallen in the line of duty. The WFF, based in Boise ID, provides financial support where insurance and worker's compensation cannot. Additionally, the WFF raises funds to memorialize fallen firefighters. To learn more about this caring organization visit www.wffoundation.org.
“Despite the snowstorm, Wildfire on Ice supporters came out in droves to support this incredible event,” said Rebekah Luedtke, Wildfire on Ice Board Member.
New to the event this year was a curling bonspiel, in which eight teams of wildland firefighters curled in the inaugural event. "We will definitely host the curling bonspiel again next year," stated Mike Rice, Wildfire On Ice Board Member. "It was incredible to have so many teams try it out and support this new competitive event."
Four hockey teams, made up representative firefighters from State and Federal Natural Resource agencies, participate in the friendly charitable hockey tournament. Once again, Team Minnesota DNR, captained by Dan Wiley and Pat Wherley, took home the 2020 hockey tournament trophy.
The Wildfire On Ice is proud to partner with the Walker Area Community Center (WACC) to host the daytime activities in their great facility. In addition to the curling and hockey tournament, the event was open to the public, offering firefighter and local community families the opportunity to ice skate with Smokey Bear, and enjoy pizza and drinks from the Village Square Café and Pepsi Nei Bottling. Attendees gathered together at the Chase on the Lake Saturday evening to complete the celebration festivities, including both a live and silent auction fundraiser.
Efforts from this year’s event grossed over $35,000 for the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, and the WACC received $2,000 in Raffle Ticket sales. “Thank you to all of our supporters for helping us achieve our highest donation level yet to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation. We can’t thank the Walker community enough for the hospitality,” stated Luedtke.
The Wildfire On Ice tournament committee extends a huge thank you to all the local sponsors and individuals who helped to make this event a huge success. Chase on the Lake is the official lodging and banquet sponsor. The Spencer-Ross Post #134 American Legion has been a long-time supporter of the event. Other local sponsors include Benson’s Eating & Drinking Emporium, Village Square Café, Lundrigan’s Clothing, Walker Home Center, Green Scene, Walker General Store, Pepsi Nei Bottling, Rice Creative Services, Bemidji Woolen Mills, Beehive Liquors, Up North Sports, Knife River Corporation, Paul Bunyan Communications, 1st National Bank Bemidji, Walker Youth Hockey and Ben Brovold - American Family Insurance.
Regional sponsors include the following: Dauntless Air, DU-HA, K1 Sportswear, MN Forestry Employees Association, Teeter’s Asphalt & Materials, Top Shelf Hockey, Wenonah Canoes, Hand-donet Shirts, Red River Liquor, LRT Custom Rods, Rescue Me Adult Hockey Tournament and Wintergreen Northern Wear.
Thank you to the Walker community and the many businesses for being gracious hosts to our event! The Wildland Firefighters and family members enjoyed spending several days in the Walker community shopping, dining, ice fishing, snowmobiling, skiing, and your hospitality.
We look forward to seeing you in 2021 for our 10th anniversary!