‘Fitter, faster, stronger’ — St. Catharines Fire Services hosts regional FireFit competition

Welland Tribune

As a Whitby firefighter struggled to complete the gruelling task of carrying an 80-kilogram dummy through the FireFit course — all while wearing full bunker gear in Saturday morning’s heat — teammates and competing firefighters cheered her on from the sidelines.

It was a show of perseverance and commitment to one another as first responders, regardless of the department name stitched on their uniform.

For St. Catharines Fire Services Chief Dave Upper, that was one of many gratifying moments of a weekend that brought firefighters from across Western Ontario to Seymour-Hannah Sports and Entertainment Centre for the regional FireFit competition.

“It has been awesome, it’s going really well,” said Upper.

“Just the experience for the team and how it brings the department together has been amazing, the camaraderie, and you can see them cheering one another on. It has been fantastic.”

Not just during the two-day event itself, but in organizing the event and pulling everything together, led by St. Catharines’ firefighters Corey Miller and Darryl Amos.

Plus, the “huge unintended consequences” of the competition, which has firefighters training in the main fire hall and out in the parking lot, flipping tires, in the afternoons and evenings.

“Everything from diet to sleep to working out, they’re doing all of it and, of course, the benefit is to our fire service and the community is that they have an incredibly great group of firefighters as well,” said Upper.

For the third consecutive summer, St. Catharines fire played host to the regional competition, with about 158 firefighters competing in both individual and team events.

Firefighters, dressed in gear that weighs as much as 45 kg, go through a series of tasks, each representing a different firefighter requirement, including a six-flight stair climb, hose hoist, forcible entry, run, hose advance and victim rescue (with the dummy).

Individual races were held Saturday, competition split between women and men, with Sunday featuring team relay events that included competitors from Whitby, Toronto, Kitchener, Seneca Fire College, Fleming College pre-service firefighters and others.

Miller, who is also a competitor in both the individual and team events, said FireFit arrived in St. Catharines on Thursday evening. That night and Friday were spent putting together the course, bleachers, storage units and vendor equipment.

Over the years, its community partnerships have grown, not only with the mayor’s office but other local groups whose roles are also in public service, and “want to be part of it, they see the pride it brings to St. Catharines,” he said. 

Travelling to FireFit competition since 2017, Miller was told hosting and competing is the most difficult element. But for him, those two minutes on the St. Catharines’ course has always been his most successful.

“Really valuing those two minutes on the course where nobody can ask me for a favour or any problems to address,” said Miller with a smile.

“It is a fun balance. It puts it in perspective.”

Hilary McRoberts and her husband, a retired firefighter, launched the competition in Canada about 31 years ago, travelling coast to coast to hold regional events.

The course was developed in the U.S. as an entry level test for firefighters and is now part of global competitions.

Back for the third year, McRoberts said the St. Catharines department has been “super supportive” of the event and Ontario is a “hotbed for us, for sure, we sold out and closed registration.”

And the St. Catharines’ team “is so good,” with four full teams of male competitors (with five firefighters on each team), and Sarah Potts competing as one of 42 individual women competitors.

“People are just trying to get better at it and be faster — fitter, faster, stronger is our motto,” said McRoberts, president of FireFit Canada. 

“It’s not like any other sport. They’re super encouraging to each other and they share training tips and all that kind of stuff because what they are doing out there is extremely difficult, and everybody respects the fact that they’re doing it.”

In September, qualified teams will compete at the FireFit Worlds and Canadian National Championships. The hope is next year, if its application is successful, St. Catharines will host FireFit’s largest event for the first time.

“That would be really neat to have people come from all over the country to compete,” said Upper.


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