Dotson returns as driver in Firefighters Destruction Derby

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By Joe Naiman
For The Alpine Sun

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.
In 2001 Pat Dotson was the driver for the Alpine Fire Protection District car.

By Joe Naiman
For The Alpine Sun

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.
In 2001 Pat Dotson was the driver for the Alpine Fire Protection District car.
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.  Dotson drove for the second time in this year’s crashfest June 4.
“It’s a lot of work but worth it for a good cause to raise money for the Burn Institute and all the programs that they run,” Dotson said.
Although the June 4 event was Dotson’s Del Mar debut as a Firefighters Destruction Derby driver, he has participated in other capacities in the past.  “I’ve been involved for 15 years,” he said.
The tasks include converting a car into a demolition derby vehicle and also raising money for the Burn Institute.
Approximately ten to twelve Alpine firefighters worked on the 1999 Mercury Grand Marquis which was donated by Horn Auto and RV.
The total donations including non-cash contributions were approximately $6,000, and the fire department was able to donate approximately $4,000 to the Burn Institute.
The primary fundraiser is usually the Alpine driver.  “I told them I would do the fundraising this year.  Nobody challenged me,” Dotson said.
The funding included support from the Alpine Firefighters Association, also known as Local 2638, and from Alpine Fire Protection District staff.  “Without them none of this would be possible,” Dotson said.
Dotson and his crew spent approximately two months turning the Grand Marquis into a racecar.
After the Firefighters Destruction Derby found a new home, 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.
A total of 17 drivers created two six-car heats and one five-car heat.  Dotson was one of the five drivers in the third heat along with Jeff Chumbley of the Carlsbad Fire Department, Joe Lavigne of the Lemon Grove Fire Department, John Olsen of the Imperial Beach Fire Department, and Roumayne Spiering of the National City Fire Department.
Chumbley was the first driver in the heat to break the flag on his car to signal that he could no longer continue.  Dotson was the second driver out.  “I was only running on six of the eight cylinders, so I had no power,” Dotson said.  “I went out early instead of being a sitting duck.”
Dotson was able to drive in the last chance heat, which was not the case for Viejas Fire Department driver Will Lansdown.  Lansdown, who was in the second heat, drove a 2001 Buick LeSabre with a computerized ignition.  He became one of the earlier departures when a hit to the left front of his car shattered the computer casing and disabled the computer.
The last chance heats were consolidated into a single heat due to the number of cars which were not drivable for the last chance qualifying event.  Dotson was one of six drivers in the last change heat and was the third driver to break his flag.  “The last hit knocked loose one of the power wires,” he said.
That deprived the car of power to the fuel pump or ignition.  “Fortunately the car is in good shape and we’ll probably use it again next year,” Dotson said.

Dotson returns as driver in Firefighters Destruction Derby

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