Sunday, November 9, 2003

Hebron firefighters to compete in junkyard reality show race

By Brenna R. Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HEBRON - Imagine crossing a hazardous mountain pass, a giant sand dune and the Colorado River all in a contraption made of junk.

That's how three Hebron firefighters will spend the next two weeks as they compete on Junkyard Mega Wars - The Great Race.

Jeff Hartline of Petersburg, Keith Collins of Walton and Bill Fletcher of Florence will fly to California on Tuesday for the race from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Along the way they will stop at junkyards to modify a vehicle for three challenges.

And it will all be videotaped.

The race will air on The Learning Channel as a three-hour special of Junkyard Mega Wars, a reality show that pits two groups of gear heads against each other to build machines out of junk. No air date has been scheduled.

Hartline, 36, appeared on the show in September and was asked to put together a team for the race.

Collins, 34, who has always wanted to be on the show, and Fletcher, 34, who the team calls "Fletch," were eager to join.

"Myself, I'm kind of the engineer and fabricator, the welder, the guy cutting things," Hartline said. "Keith has extensive experience in mechanics, big trucks and equipment, and Fletch has the mixture of brains and brawn."

The firefighters and three other teams will be given a base vehicle; they will then scavenge junkyards to modify the vehicle before competing in the challenges.

"What is fun is you get to build it, then you get to see how well it's going handle and hopefully win," Collins said.

When Collins told his 16-year-old daughter about his impending TV stardom, she had just one request.

"My daughter was like, 'Just don't embarrass me dad,'" he said.

The men say they aren't worried about how they will appear on camera. Each had to sign a release giving up any say in how they are portrayed.

"We're all going out there with one purpose, and that's to win the challenge, win the race," Fletcher said. "If the cameras are there and happen to catch a silly moment, so be it."

Silly is exactly what the trio put in their five-minute application video. The video showed them riding around the fire station on rolling platforms used to work under cars.

Because the firefighters all work the same shift, others offered to fill in at the station. But going away for two weeks is tough for Hartline, who has a 2-month-old baby.

"It's going to be a little rough for (Stephanie, his wife). She's starting back to work this week," he said. "But the grandmas are going to come down and help out."


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