ALBANY – Many times, when police officers and emergency medical personnel or firefighters get together, it’s at the scene of a tragic event.

On Saturday, first responders will get together in a different type of environment to see who can grill up the best babyback ribs and chicken at the inaugural First responders Grill Off Contest.

Lt. Eric Graham of the Albany Fire Department launched a first salvo in the battle for bragging rights.

“Everybody in this group knows firefighters are the best cooks,” he said.

A police officer quipped that firefighters know how to put out fires but can’t keep one going.

“How can police be good cooks?” Graham shot back. “They just microwave. We have stoves at the station.”

Albany businessman Yaz Johnson of the “Let’s Talk Radio Show” on WZBN organized the grilling competition to allow officers the opportunity to see each other in a non-emergency setting.

“The reason I came up with this is I’m very active in the community, and when I thought about the jobs the first responders have I thought it was a good idea for them to be able just to come together and have fun outside of saving our lives and making sure the citizens are safe,” he said. “With this coming together, it to me brings together a family, a first responder’s family of different agencies.”

In addition to the fire department, agencies that will be represented on Saturday when the competition kicks off are the Albany Police Department, Dougherty County Police Department, Dougherty County School Police, Dougherty County EMS personnel, and officers with the Dougherty Sheriff’s Office and Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany.

They will be competing for an impressive trophy and for charity.

“A portion of proceeds will be given to a nonprofit organization of the winner’s choice,” Johnson said. “They are all excited about it. They’ve been (building) up a friendly beef to see who’s going to be the best.”

The public is invited to the competition, which starts at 10 a.m. in the rear parking lot of the Albany Civic Center.

“This will give them the opportunity to come and meet some of the first responders,” Johnson said. “When we’re able to mix and mingle with them, we develop a different bond, which in itself will help solve some of the crime in Albany and Dougherty County.”

Once word got out, Johnson said, he fielded calls from other agencies in the area. He plans to open the event up to agencies outside Dougherty County in the future.

“It’s going to be an annual thing,” he said. “Next year, I’m going open it to first responders all over southwest Georgia.”

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