Firefighters pump 250,000 gallons of Lake LaSalle water for UB’s annual Oozefest

Crews prepare for one of the largest mud volleyball tournaments in the U.S.


 Firefighters pumped a total of 250,000 gallons of Lake LaSalle water — around 1,500 gallons per minute — into the mud pit on St. Rita’s Lane ahead of UB’s annual Oozefest.

Steven Herberger, the manager of fire and life safety in UB’s Environment, Health and Safety department, has been working Oozefest for 26 years. He is one of the 12 firefighters and 10 junior firefighters from the Getzville Fire Department that prepared the pit for Saturday morning’s mud volleyball tournament.

The crew came in two pumper trucks and an aerial truck, and pumped the water for two-and-a-half hours on Friday starting at 6 p.m. and for two hours at 6 a.m. on Saturday. Herberger said his crew used to take the water directly from the fire hydrants, but they started using an “old school” method called “drafting” to pump fresh water from Lake LaSalle 10 years ago.

The crew battled strong winds up to 50 miles per hour the night before Oozefest.

“The wind today is severely impacting us. We are fighting more to keep our water to stay on the courts,” Herberger said Friday evening. “Normally, we can take our nozzle and reach all the way across the court before it breaks up, and today, you can see what the water is doing to it. … It’s creating more of a mist. If we were at a fire right now, the wind would be so strong the nozzle would be useless.”

Hannah Stein is the editor-in-chief and can be reached at and @HannahJStein.