Firefighters to battle it out

By: By Jessica Patterson

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Mar 12, 2014 12:13 pm

Okotoks Fire Department firefighter Bob Button stands at the top of the stairs in the Southridge Emergency Services building which members use to train for the <br />upcoming Firefit Challenge to be held in Okotoks on June 14-15.
Okotoks Fire Department firefighter Bob Button stands at the top of the stairs in the Southridge Emergency Services building which members use to train for the
upcoming Firefit Challenge to be held in Okotoks on June 14-15.
Jordan Verlage/OWW

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Firefighters from across western Canada will descend on Okotoks later this year, but they won’t be responding to any emergencies.

For the first time Okotoks will be the host of the Western Prairie Regional Firefit Challenge June 14-15, said Bob Button, event organizer and full time firefighter with the Okotoks Fire Department.

“This is our first time ever hosting the Firefit Challenge,” Button said. “It’s quite an event. It can draw up to 3,000 people including spectators and family members, and 120 competitors.”

Okotoks was a prime location for the event, with its proximity to other large centres in the province. The Okotoks competition will be a regional competition for the Western division, but draws competitors from across Canada. The first place competitors in regionals get a bye to go to nationals in Longueuil, Quebec on September.

“We’ll have competitors coming from Thompson, Manitoba, Winnipeg, you name it,” Button said. “We’ll be putting together a team or two from Okotoks and hoping that we’ll have some individual competitors coming out of that.”

The two-day event will bring children, families and residents from across the foothills to the Okotoks Recreation Centre parking lot, where a large obstacle course will be set up.

In the Firefit Challenge, participants in full gear complete a series of six tasks, racing against themselves, an opposing team and the clock.

The first competitor climbs six flights of stairs, carrying a flashlight and a 42-pound hose to the top and back.

The second team member hoists a 45-pound roll of hose to the top of the stair tower, retrieves the flashlight and descends to the bottom.

Then, a third team member moves a beam with an eight-pound mallet simulating the force used in forcible entry, before passing off the flashlight baton to another member who races 140 feet on foot around hydrants, dragging a hose 75 feet. That competitor passes off the fully-charged hose to a teammate who must hit a target. Then, in a feat of strength and endurance, a 165-pound mannequin is dragged 100 feet, simulating rescuing a victim. Teams can consist of three to five firefighters, though each task can be done by individuals.

It’s physically demanding and the display of strength, strategy and ability sends the best to nationals each year.

“What a lot of competitors will do is train all year with regional events, to prepare themselves for the national events,” Button says. “It allows the community to see how physically demanding our job can be and how important it is to stay in shape.”

The Firefit challenges are important to firefighters across the country for a variety of reasons, Button says. The challenge allows firefighters to network with other firefighters, meet other families and develop camaraderie.

“Whether you’re training as an individual or training as a team, you’re working together,” Button says. “Our job isn’t an individual job, our job is a team effort. I can’t do anything by myself as a firefighter and be successful at it. It’s a family and we work as a family.”

For those looking to get involved or volunteer, more information can be found on the Firefit website at www.firefit.com.


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