Running, climbing stairs, hoisting hoses, saving lives — all in a day’s work for a firefighter. But even on their off time, some firefighters enjoy putting those skills to the test.
That’s why they compete at the Canadian FireFit Championships, held in Spruce Meadows, Alta., this month.
Anthony Storey of the Fredericton Fire Department’s four-person team remembers how nervous he felt as he waited for his shot at this year’s event, held the week of Sept. 7.
He was the last to compete that day, and he said the tension rose as he realized he had to beat 1:17 in order for his team to take home the first place trophy. Storey’s personal best was 1:19.
Everyone kept telling him, “Go out there and do your best,” Storey recalled.
When he crossed the finish line, a teammate came running up to tell him he had the fastest time anyone from the Fredericton team had ever achieved. At 1:16, Storey helped win the competition, beating Edmonton’s team by one second.
This was Fredericton’s first time taking a podium spot in the championships, let alone coming in first, said Storey.
“It was probably one of the more exciting feelings in my life, honestly, finding out that we had beaten them and gotten the national championship for such a small department,” he said.
Not only did Storey contribute to his team’s top times, but he also came second overall for individual open male competitors. The team also took home rookie of the year, going to Mike Filer.
The Fredericton Fire Department has been competing in FireFit competitions since the 1990s, according to Steven Magnus, who works for the fire prevention division.
He’s been competing since 2012 and calls the competition “a job-related way that you can be an athlete.”
“There’s a lot of big names on that trophy that when they do finally call your name, it’s a pretty cool feeling,” said Magnus.
What is FireFit?
The competition is done in full gear, including pants, jackets, helmets and breathing equipment to simulate actual field conditions.
The course starts with the stair climb — 60 steps with a 42-pound hose bundle on their shoulders, simulating a high-rise building, said Storey.
Next is the hose hoist where competitors haul a 45-pound hose, hand-over-hand, to the top of the tower, but Storey said it feels more like 90 pounds. Then, they run down the stairs, touching every step on the way down.
Storey said this is more challenging for some than others, but for each step missed, there’s a two-second penalty.
After that, the forcible entry event uses a nine-pound mallet to move a steel beam back around 10 inches, said Storey.
“The fastest guys usually tend to do it like seven or eight hits,” he said.
Competitors will then run a 140-foot distance around hydrants dragging a fully-charged hose line. They then use the hose to hit a target.
The final part of the course involves dragging a 175-pound dummy, known as Rescue Randy, backwards 100-feet.
Do with a lot less
Magnus said preparing for the competition takes lots of training.
“We’ll set up portions of the course and basically simulate everything the best we can,” he said.
Storey said the team would often train together in the mornings, running “the bottom half of the course.”
While many fire departments have towers where they can practise the first half of the obstacles, Fredericton Fire Department doesn’t have that.
Storey said this means their team does with a lot less than some others.
Teamwork makes the dream work
Storey said the team element of firefighting and competing is something that draws him to it. He mentioned one member of the department who often shows up to help the team train even though he doesn’t compete himself.
Storey said his colleague, Lika Fiaui, drags Rescue Randy back to the starting line during training so the team still has enough energy to do the race.
Fiaui also brings them water and resets the force machine.
“Sometimes the moral support [is] the biggest thing of all,” said Storey.
The team has won more than a trophy. The members have also brought home a feeling of pride.
“We became the first team from New Brunswick on [the trophy]. So it is a pretty good feeling.”
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