From firefighter to demolition derby driver: the surprising hobby of a Washington County fireman


SMITHSBURG, Md. (WDVM) — Normally when you hear about firefighters and car wrecks, it’s the firefighter who is responding to the incident, not getting into them. While Washington County firefighter Chandler Fishack has completed numerous extrications, he also has a knack for taking cars apart to turn them into demolition derby cars.

Fishack will be competing in his 6th demolition derby during this year’s Washington County Ag Expo and he couldn’t be more excited. He explains the process of creating a demolition derby car is not like your average trip to the auto body shop. The car must be stripped of all glass and plastic pieces, including windows, mirrors, and head or tail lights. Fishack also welds three of the four car doors shut and also welds metal bars and fencing to replace the now-removed windshield. He explains the welded doors cannot open during the derby as it is a hazard to all of the drivers. He stressed that one door must be left untouched and secured by a chain and lock in order to gain access to a driver during an emergency. The metal bars and chain fencing replaces the front windshield and also protects Fishack from objects such as tires or other debris that could fly off during the derby.

Fishack is a lifelong Smithsburg resident and has been a firefighter since he was 16-years-old. He grew up in a family of firefighters as his family tree can be traced to the founders of the Smithsburg Fire Company. Fishack was beaming with pride when he explained his great-great-grandfather built the first fire engine for the Smithsburg Fire Company in 1932.

Fishack also serves as the Recruitment and Retention Coordinator for the Washington County Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association. When he’s not responding to fire calls, he can be found working on his entry for the annual demolition derby. This year’s theme hits close to home for the fireman.

“This year, the theme for the derby is pandemic healthcare heroes, so we’re doing an ambulance this year,” Fishack explains. “It falls in with our personal lives and we think it’s an excellent choice coming out of the pandemic and paying tribute to the health care professionals who put their lives on the line to keep us safe.”

While Fishack has not always followed the theme of the derby, he had no doubt his entry would honor healthcare heroes. Like many healthcare professionals, Fishack did not have the ability to “work from home” during the pandemic. He wanted to make sure his demolition derby car was a clear “thank you” to not only his fellow first responder but especially the healthcare workers after the difficult year.

“We take a lot of pride in decorating ours. Some people just build them and run them but a lot most of the fun for us is decorating and then having a really cool theme,” Fishack said, proudly.

Fishack is decorating his car to look like an ambulance, complete with a light bar and sirens and a medical cross cut out of the hood. He has named his entry “Past The Point of Rescue” as a play on words for a fire and rescue company and as a preview of what will happen to the car during the derby.

With the derby just a few days away, all his car is missing is a coat of white paint and a car-sized face mask.

To follow Fishack’s progress and to see other demolition derby cars he has constructed, please visit the Cavetown Crushers Facebook page.

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