FireFit Challenge thrills local competitors

Okotoks: Fire departments look to use event as springboard

By: Remy Greer

  |  Posted: Thursday, Jun 19, 2014 06:00 am

Okotoks firefighter Bob Button, right, hoists a 45-pound coil of hose up four storeys in a team relay event versus a competitor from Didsbury during the Western Prairie Regional FireFit Challenge on June 15 at the Okotoks Recreation Centre.
Okotoks firefighter Bob Button, right, hoists a 45-pound coil of hose up four storeys in a team relay event versus a competitor from Didsbury during the Western Prairie Regional FireFit Challenge on June 15 at the Okotoks Recreation Centre.
Jordan Verlage/OWW

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History was made when the FireFit Challenge was introduced to the foothills.

MD of Foothills firefighter Chris Cederstrand became the first above-knee amputee to compete in FireFit as the Western Prairie Regional FireFit Challenge and thrilled hundreds of spectators on June 14-15 at the Okotoks Recreation Centre.

“It’s always nice to do something like that, but it wasn’t the reason I did it, I just enjoy a challenge,” said Cederstrand, a volunteer fighter based at the Heritage Pointe Hall. “It’s fantastic being the first guy to do something. It is special.

“It was very, very hard to do, but it’s amazing to get out here and be able to do it.”

Cederstrand, an Okotoks resident, had his right leg amputated nine years ago in a road construction accident. In the relay team event on Sunday, he competed with his prosthetic leg atop a four-storey structure as he hoisted a 45-pound bundle of hose and was full flight as he then scaled down the structure, touching each step along the way, towards the next station.

“Doing it with all of the bunker gear on is a little bit of a different deal,” he said with a smile. “I trained a lot for it and being able to do that, to be able to come down in a decent amount of time was just incredible.

“My fire hall is absolutely amazing, they’re beyond supportive. They’ve been with me through every step of this. For them to have me come out in this FireFit Challenge is amazing.”

The first of many.

The MD of Foothills fire department fielded three teams in the relay race and could become a fixture at future FireFit events.

“This is just the start of everything,” Cederstrand said. “Everyone at our hall is pretty fired up about it now and I think we’re going to more dedicated with the training and really push for next year’s competition.”

The competitive fire was lit under the Okotoks Fire Department as well. They were on double-duty as event hosts and participants, but if anyone can handle a double shift, it’s a firefighter.

“It’s been exciting,” said Okotoks fire chief Ken Thevenot. “We have three teams competing and four individuals and it’s really nice to see the enthusiasm towards the whole event within our own department because now that triggers some more physical activity. It’s just like a domino effect.

“Just from this weekend a lot of guys are talking, they’ve got the bug now. That was my whole intent to bring it here, to get that bug, to have that training, to get those teams out there.”

The four-stage event took the most out of even the fittest of competitors.

Saturday’s competition featured individual competitors, with the team-relay event on Sunday, as they completed the course from running up four storeys with a 50-pound bundle of hose on a shoulder before hoisting 45-pounds of hose from the ground to the top of the structure and sprinting back down the stairs.

Next, competitors simulate a forced entry by hammering a chunk of steel, then navigating through obstacles grabbing a hose and shooting a target before closing the race by dragging a 175-pound Rescue Randy dummy backwards to the finish line.

If it sounds exhausting, well, it is. The event is designed to replicate the challenges firefighters can face each and every day on the job.

“It simulates it pretty well actually,” Thevenot said. “The hose drag is bang-on, the forcible entry when we’re on roofs or going through floors, we had a fire a couple months back where we had to cut holes in floors … When you’re on a roof you have to hoist up all sorts of tools and the dummy drag we do practice that if we have a down firefighter or we have to rescue an individual.

“I’ve done all these events in real life.”

The two-day event featured 124 individual competitors and 24 relay teams coming from as far as Nunavut and Thompson, Manitoba. Local firefighters could be back performing in front of their hometown fans before long and this time on an even bigger stage.

“The support not only from the community, but from people travelling here has just been quite phenomenal,” Thevenot said. “The organizers of FireFit actually asked us, because of our organization, our venue, our community, our area and the support of other firefighters coming into our community, they asked us if we would consider hosting the national event within two years.

“Everyone that I’ve talked to, our team members and our committee, we’re all for it. Then we get TSN coming here and that puts us on the map for sporting events and you get the best of the best there.”


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