Fitter, Faster, Stronger

Reaching the top of the tower, these two firefighters haul 40lbs of fire hose hand over hand, all the way up.

 

 

 
Fitter, faster, stronger is the tag line that FireFit uses to describe itself, and over the weekend of June 9 & 10, there were many examples of people that took that motto to heart.
FireFit is a fitness and skills competition for professional firefighters that is quickly growing in popularity. There are competitions worldwide, with the international championships taking place in Dubai every year. Last weekend, the final Western Canadian qualifying challenge was held at the LRC in Leduc.  
One hundred and forty six Firefighters from as far away as Red Lake, Ontario, and Nunavut showed up to take the FireFit Challenge.
The opening ceremonies on Saturday morning began with a piper leading all the competitors on the course, where Deputy Mayor Glen Finstad, welcomed everyone to Leduc and wished them the best in competition. Then Pastor Blaine Gregg, from St. David's United Church, read aloud the firefighter's prayer and everyone paused for a moment of silence for the firefighters that had been lost in the line of duty.
Fern Richardson led the crowd in a rendition of O' Canada, as a massive Canadian flag fluttered in the breeze overhead, hung from an extended ladder on one of the Leduc fire trucks. 
Once the ceremonies were over, Leduc City Firefighter Kerry Harper, gave a sample run through the course. The course begins at the bottom of a steel tower, where two firefighters are geared up in their full kit, boots, helmets, gloves and all, including using their air packs to breathe. When the buzzer sounds they pick up a 40lb length of hose and run up the six flights of steps to the top of the tower. Once at the top, they move to the tower railing and haul another 40lb roll of hose up a rope, hand over hand, to the tower platform. At that point, the firefighters turn and race down the six flights of stairs, where they cannot miss hitting one step along the way, and once at the bottom they jump onto a steel platform with a heavy metal block in the center, called a Forcible Entry Machine, that they have to pound with a sledgehammer and move a designated length. Once that is accomplished, they jump off the machine and run through a slalom course of fire hydrants to pick up a charged fire hose and pull it half way back through the course to hit an accuracy target with a stream of water from the hose. When that is achieved, the hose can be dropped and the firefighter then moves to a 175lb dummy nicknamed "Rescue Randy", picks the "victim" up off the ground and drags him to safety at the end of the course.
Amazingly, the fastest firefighters out there can do this unbelievably demanding run in under two minutes. This competition requires an incredible amount of training and dedication just to make it through the course at all. A lot of firefighters cannot even finish the course. There was more than one firefighter over this last weekend who could not stand on their own at the end of their run, and had to be helped over to the medical tent to recover. 
It takes a certain personality type to become a firefighter in the first place, so there is an element of that "never give up" attitude that can come out on the course as well. Such as with one female firefighter early on Saturday, who blazed through all the elements of the course and led the race right up until she had to pick up and drag Rescue Randy to the finish line. She was not very tall and had a problem getting a good grip on Randy, plus, she had obviously given it her all over the rest of the course and had hit the end of her energy at the last element. But would she give up and say she had done her best at that point? No way! This physically and mentally tough young woman fought, struggled, crawled, pulled, collapsed, and got back up numerous times, until, with the screams and applause of the crowd behind her, she hauled Rescue Randy across the finish line almost nine minutes after she began.
The crowd of hundreds that showed up all weekend long, even through the rain on Sunday, really got into the spirit of the competition. They cheered on every team and individual that took to the course, but there definitely was an extra decibel or two added to the uproar when members from the Leduc firehall were on course.
Even though every firefighter who took part in the FireFit Challenge are winners in their own right, officially there were a few who rose to the top at the Leduc Competition. The top three placings in each division are noted on the following page 17.
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