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Gilmore drives for Camp Pendleton in Firefighters Destruction Derby

Brian Gilmore drove for the Camp Pendleton Fire Department in the Firefighters Destruction Derby which was contested June 4 and was part of the Fire and Safety Exposition at the San Diego County Fair.

"I just had a great time," Gilmore said. "It was a different experience. It was fun."

In 1995 the Cajon Speedway, the Burn Institute, and local fire departments collaborated for an annual night which included fundraising and promotions for the Burn Institute, a pre-race parade of fire trucks, an American flag raised from a fire engine ladder for the Star-Spangled Banner, and a Firefighters Destruction Derby. The Burn Institute and local firefighters also collaborated for an annual exposition and burn run at Qualcomm Stadium.

Cajon Speedway closed after the 2004 season, but in 2010 the Fire and Safety Exposition was moved to the San Diego County Fair and the Firefighters Destruction Derby returned after a five-year absence. Some changes due to the configuration of the Del Mar Arena were necessary.

The parade of fire trucks takes place earlier in the day and now also includes ambulances, the flag is not raised from a ladder inside the covered arena, and the cars are divided into heats. The current format involves three early afternoon heats with the last two running cars in each heat qualifying for the final, two last chance heats in the late afternoon to allow the last remaining cars in each of those heats into the concluding competition, and the final itself.

In 2010 Ron Pickett represented the Camp Pendleton Fire Department with a 1983 Chevrolet Caprice. He finished third in his heat after disconnected hoses kept him from continuing and that year the Firefighters Destruction Derby did not have a last chance heat. Ryan Rushing converted the Caprice into a demolition derby vehicle but was on his honeymoon during that year's event and wasn't able to drive. The fire department was unable to obtain cars for the next three demolition derbies, and in 2014 Rushing was slated to drive but the car wasn't ready in time for the Firefighters Destruction Derby.

Rushing's crew chief, Mike Parker, obtained a Cadillac from J&T Garage in Landers for the 2015 demolition derby. Rushing was the first driver eliminated in his initial heat after his shifter cable broke, and in the last chance heat the Cadillac's transmission case broke open and would no longer shift so Rushing broke the flag on his car to signal that he could no longer continue.

Rushing was recently promoted to a different station and shift which precluded him from driving in this year's Firefighters Destruction Derby.

"I said I could do it," Gilmore said.

Parker, who works for the Camp Pendleton Fire Department but lives in Yucca Valley, obtained a 1989 Lincoln Town Car from John's Garage in Yucca Valley.

Rushing, Parker, and Grant DeRose worked to convert the Lincoln into a demolition derby car with some help from a handful of other Camp Pendleton firefighters. The process to ready the vehicle for the crashfest took approximately three months.

International Association of Fire Fighters Local F-85 donated $500 so that the Camp Pendleton firefighters could build the car. The fire department also raised nearly $1,400 for the Burn Institute.

Gilmore was in the first heat along with Dan Holian from the Imperial Beach lifeguard service, 2013 champion Robert Marcon of the Bonita-Sunnyside Fire Protection District, Chris Paddock from the El Cajon Fire Department, 2015 winner Patrick Sellers of the Lakeside Fire Protection District, and Chris Wrisley from the Lemon Grove Fire Department. Three cars were still running when Gilmore broke his flag.

"We snapped our rear axle. Snapped it right off," Gilmore said. "Somebody hit me right square on that tire and snapped the axle on the other side."

The car was not able to participate in the last chance heats, which were consolidated into a single heat due to the number of cars which were not drivable for the last chance qualifying event.

Gilmore, who was raised in Descanso, has been with the Camp Pendleton Fire Department for ten years.


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