Lemon Grove firefighter Chris Wrisley wins the 2017 Firefighter Demolition Derby

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Chris Wrisley of the Lemon Grove Fire Department won the 2017 Firefighter Demolition Derby that took place June 3 and was part of the San Diego County Fair.

“This is great,” Wrisley said. “Being out here with my friends and winning is a huge honor.”

Chris Wrisley of the Lemon Grove Fire Department won the 2017 Firefighter Demolition Derby that took place June 3 and was part of the San Diego County Fair.

“This is great,” Wrisley said. “Being out here with my friends and winning is a huge honor.”

The second-place driver, John Olsen, is a member of the Imperial Beach Fire Department but lives in Lemon Grove. “I’m glad that a member of our community is out here to support us, have fun with us,” Wrisley said.

Some changes were necessary due to the configuration of the Del Mar Arena. The parade of fire trucks takes place earlier in the day, the flag is not raised from a ladder inside the covered arena, and the cars are divided into heats. This year’s format involved two early afternoon heats with the last two running cars in each heat qualifying for the final, a last chance heat in the late afternoon to allow the last three remaining cars into the concluding competition, and the final itself (the driver from the fire department which raised the most money for the Burn Institute is also allowed to drive in the final if he has an operational car).

This year’s crashfest included 15 cars, and the fire departments combined raised more than $70,000 for the Burn Institute. Wrisley and his fellow Lemon Grove firefighters provided approximately $3,500 of that amount. Olsen and other Imperial Beach firefighters were responsible for approximately $8,000.

Wrisley competed in the Firefighter Demolition Derby with a 1977 Oldsmobile 98 he found on Craigslist. He and other Lemon Grove firefighters began converting the Oldsmobile into a demolition derby car in January. “Everybody lent a hand, too many to count,” Wrisley said.
Ken Hoyt donated the 2003 Crown Victoria that became Olsen’s car. Hoyt’s wife works at the University of San Diego with the sister of Stephen Scimore, who was fatally burned in a Chula Vista mobile home fire in September 2016.

Wrisley and Olsen were both in the first heat along with Bonita-Sunnyside Fire Department driver Robert Marcon, Matt Newlin of the Carlsbad Fire Department, Camp Pendleton Fire Department representative Thomas Klein, Coronado Fire Department participant Brandon Ihde, Escondido Fire Department firefighter Alex Koji, and Lakeside competitor Shane Daunis. Newlin and Ihde had the two remaining running cars in the first heat. Wrisley, Olsen, and Koji were the final last chance qualifier remaining drivers.

Ihde took third place in the final. Olsen’s struggle with a broken steering linkage made Wrisley the winner of this year’s Firefighter Demolition Derby.

Wrisley, who had competed in five previous Firefighters Destruction Derby events, credited his victory to vehicle maintenance rather than to his own actions in the arena and noted the support of his friends and family. “Everybody contributed,” he said.

Wrisley was raised in Julian and worked for the Julian Fire Department before joining the City of Lemon Grove six years ago. He lives in El Cajon.