Newport Beach Police Chief Jon Lewis has a score to settle.
Last summer, Lewis and Costa Mesa Fire Chief Dan Stefano had a smashing showdown in the Orange County Fair’s Motorhome Madness Demolition Derby. By the time the chaos ended, leaving a sea of scattered RV parts through the Action Sports Arena, Stefano had won the competition, with Lewis second.
The event pits the top brass from area police and fire departments, and the destruction doesn’t stop until only one personalized recreational vehicle is still running.
“I’m playing to win,” Lewis said of this year’s contest, set for Saturday night.
Lewis, Stefano, Newport Beach Fire Chief Chip Duncan, Costa Mesa Police Chief Rob Sharpnack, Brea/Fullerton Fire Chief Wolf Knabe and Santa Ana Police Chief David Valentin will hop behind the wheel with the goal of ramming and smashing everyone else’s RV into oblivion for the enjoyment of spectators.
“I was fortunate enough to take the crown last year, and I’m going to defend it,” Stefano said. “There’s a lot of competitive fire that goes into it.”
The RVs are mostly gutted, and drivers are surrounded by a cage to protect them from the inevitable impacts. Since the goal is to keep their RVs running, participants have found success backing into one another to protect the front of the vehicle.
Though Stefano has spent his career behind the wheel of large firetrucks, he thinks police chiefs skilled in the PIT maneuver — a tactic often used in car chases to stop a fleeing vehicle by forcing it to turn sideways — have an edge in the competition.
Lewis said a PIT maneuver would be tricky in a bulky RV, but he expects each driver to bring his own set of skills to the arena.
The mayhem has another purpose as well.
The fair’s demolition derby events, which began Wednesday and run daily through Sunday, benefit Susan G. Komen Orange County’s efforts to fight breast cancer, as well as aid Project 999 — a nonprofit that supports families of law enforcement officers killed or injured in the line of duty — and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, which aims to reduce firefighter deaths and injuries and raises funds for the families of fallen firefighters.
Win or lose, participants say, the event is a fun way to connect with the communities they serve and raise money for charity.
“It’s a pretty special experience,” Lewis said.
IF YOU GO
What: Motorhome Madness Demolition Derby
When: 8:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Action Sports Arena, OC Fair & Event Center, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa