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Hauling aloft – three floors high, Firefighters pull a 20kg Angus Fire rolled hose to the top of the tower.

Leicester hosts ‘hot’ competition

The British Firefighter Challenge (BFC) 2017 made Leicester its home for this year’s competition after a tremendously successful debut in Nottingham Jubilee Campus one year ago. Fire engines and hundreds of spectators flocked to Magazine Square, De Montfort University on July 29, to witness Firefighters from all over the World compete for the fastest time.

Leicester watched on as over 100 firefighters, both men and women, were tested to their limits with a series of eight challenges all whilst wearing full Personal Protective Equipment and Breathing Apparatus. The eight stages include; a six flight stair climb, hauling a 20kg hose pack aloft, descending the stairs, carrying out a forcible entry technique, completing a 60m hose drag and make up, an equipment carry and performing a 60m casualty drag weighing 70kg, all replicating a real life rescue.

The contest provided an insightful view into the job millions of Firefighters across the globe undertake, allowing the public to see how incredibly arduous and dangerous each incident can be. It also brought the community closer together, while people cheered and clapped throughout the day.

Firefighter Michael Joseph on the 70kg Ruth Lee casualty rescue, dragging his way to a Silver medal in the over 45 age category.

Firefighter Michael Joseph on the 70kg Ruth Lee casualty rescue, dragging his way to a Silver medal in the over 45 age category.

John Gregory, part of the organising team for the BFC said;

“The event doesn’t have an age restriction; Firefighters of all ages can take part, and it’s free for the public to spectate. Around the event there are community safety activities for the families, the Fire Service museum, children’s entertainment, a BBQ and even a local brewery serving drinks. There is literally something for everyone.”

The younger generation had an opportunity to experience Fire and Road Safety demonstrations thanks to activities and talks by local Firefighters, the chance to take a ride on a mini fire engine and meet a crowd favourite, Leicestershire Fire and Rescue mascot – Lester the Lion. For the grown-ups, there were challenges to take on their families at the Leicester City Football Club penalty shoot-out, the Leicester Riders Basketball hoop free throw and an ale stand provided by Everards of Leicestershire.

Families gather to spectate with local mascot Lester the Lion.

Families gather to spectate with local mascot Lester the Lion.

David Tennant, a Firefighter at Leicestershire Fire and Rescue said;

“The highlight of the event for me was it being family-friendly. It allowed all my family, including young children, to come down and stay all day. Also, meeting Firefighters from around the world and extending our Firefighter family!”

The weather seemed to be in favour of the event (miraculously!) and the competitive atmosphere could be felt from afar, seeing that the music and the cheering were an enticing combination. Sambando, Leicestershire’s Samba band, offered loud and compelling street dance music, alongside a local DJ who also works for Leicestershire Fire and Rescue.

Contestants from Germany, Austria, Gibraltar, as far as Canada and even Australia competed along with 24 different British Fire and Rescue Service. Martin Hebenstreit, a German volunteer Firefighter and this year’s overall winner, said:

“It’s a great competition. It doesn’t matter whether you’re good or bad or which country you’re from. You are supported by everyone. It’s like a big family.”

The contestants were divided into age groups and categories, those being: age 18-30; 30-35; 35-40; 40-45, 45-50, 50+ and females. Gold, Silver and Bronze were available to win in each age category, as well as the British overall winner. Eight female competitors took part in this competition compared to only three on last year’s BFC, showing a growing confidence by the female Firefighters who are now more self-assured in taking on such a physically demanding challenge.

Hauling aloft – three floors high, Firefighters pull a 20kg Angus Fire rolled hose to the top of the tower.

Hauling aloft – three floors high, Firefighters pull a 20kg Angus Fire rolled hose to the top of the tower.

Austrian Firefighter and Gold medal winner in the Female Category; Petra Buresch, said;

“We travelled to England to meet our friends from the British Fire Services and of course to defend my second place from last year. To win Gold in my category was fantastic, I am very proud of my performance and I am convinced that my physical fitness is sufficient to help in case of emergency. This is my motivation and the meaning for this sport. The British Firefighter Challenge received amazing support from spectators who were cheering and jubilant throughout. Children were fascinated by their mums and dads competing, and I look forward to next year!”

The British Firefighter Challenge, a not-for-profit event was funded by various Fire Service equipment sponsors including Ruth Lee, Ballyclare, PBI Products, Angus Fire, Drager, Skills for Justice, along with other local businesses. All monies raised from the event went straight to the Fire Fighters Charity, which provides a range of services including rehabilitation activities to help beneficiaries with health problems, nursing support, recuperation after a life changing event, child and family programmes and advice.

John Gregory said; “We are extremely proud to have organised an event that brought families, communities and countries together. We must say a huge thank you to Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service and De Montfort University for their unwavering support. We invite everyone to join us in Suffolk on 27th and 28th July, 2018.”

More information will be coming up on the website. If you are a Firefighter interested in competing, an equipment provider interested in sponsorship, or simply a spectator wanting to enjoy a day out with your family, visit our website or send us an email.

For more information, go to www.britishfirefighterchallenge.co.uk

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John Gregory is a Firefighter with Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service, UK.