A new event involving Firefighters testing their skills and fitness to the limit started last year in the UK. The British Firefighter Challenge was born after a group of friends, who competed in similar events across the world representing Great Britain, decided it was time for a similar event to be set up in Britain.
The idea is to get Firefighters together from not only the UK, but across the world, and make them compete in a series of tasks that will help them improve their health and fitness in a sport specific to their job role. These challenges include climbing six flights of stairs, hauling equipment aloft, using forcible entry techniques, completing a hose drag and make up, equipment carry and casualty rescue.
John Gregory, this year’s Event Organizer, said: “It is incredibly important that all Emergency Services professionals are prepared as well as possible for their incredibly demanding roles – both physically and mentally.”
The British Firefighter Challenge is a new, innovative concept and it’s still trying to make its name reach many more members of the public. Before last year’s competition, nothing like this had happened in the UK.
Paul Marriott, Firefighter who’ll be competing for the first time this year, shared why he decided to take part: “Last year I had assisted with the course re-set and had been involved in designing and providing course equipment.
“After being part of this and seeing how well the day ran and the commitment and enjoyment of all who took part I felt that I wanted to be able to compete this year.
“This is a timed event that stretches competitors to their limit of fitness and endurance. It’s interesting to see different methods applied to the course and obstacles by different fire-fighters and seeing how different countries work.”
The competitors are divided into age categories, those being; males age 18-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50-59 and females open age, with the winner, second and third place in each age group receiving a medal. Gregory said “Offering age categories serves as an opportunity for firefighters to evaluate their skills and keep improving right up to the age of retirement.”
The number of participants grew from 70 people in last year’s competition to 130 this year. Contestants from Canada, USA, Germany, Austria, Croatia and even Australia will be competing along with 24 different UK Fire & Rescue Services who are eligible to represent the Firefighters from Great Britain (Team GB).
Gregory said: “Team GB has competed in a number of Firefighter Challenges across Europe, such as the Toughest Firefighter Alive and Firefighter Combat Challenges. The team has also competed at the World Firefighter Combat Challenges in USA and Dubai plus World Police and Fire Games.”
“This year we are hosting our biggest competition. We sold out the individual registration in 10 weeks.”
Ten female contestants will also be taking part, compared to only three last year. This proves female Firefighters are more confident in taking up such a physically demanding challenge, and are not afraid of competing against males.
Laura Noble, last year’s BFFC contestant, explains: “Some females may look at the course content and think that they can’t do it. But actually, they are doing it every day as part of their role as a fire fighter!”
“It takes extra training and dedication but the sense of achievement once you cross the finish line is amazing! I am sure that as word gets around, and the competition grows, more females will enter.”
The winners in each category are awarded medals, but there are also four trophies to be distributed: one for the Overall Champion, one for the British Champion, one for the fastest British Fire and Rescue Service (from its fastest 3 competitors) and one for the Relay Champions. De Montfort University Leicester will be the home for The British Firefighter Challenge 2017, since the campus offers excellent facilities, is open to the public and close to the city center.
The British Firefighter Challenge is funded by various sponsors including De Montfort University, Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service, Angus Fire, PBI Performance Products, Ruth Lee, Drager and Lathams, among many others.
Gregory said: “The sponsors provide us with all the equipment we need. We don’t make any money for ourselves.
“All the collections from the event and any profits will go to charity.”
The event is hugely family aimed, offering an opportunity for the public to witness the work Firefighters must do on a day-to-day basis. It serves as an opportunity for people to get involved with the extraordinarily important work Firefighters do, and the service they provide communities. This year, it is expecting a turnout of around 2000 people throughout the day for the event at De Montfort University.
Laura said: “The public will be able to meet and interact with the Firefighters. They will see our equipment and how we use it. They can cheer us on and enjoy watching people pushing themselves to their physical limits.”
Gregory added: “The challenges serve to inspire health and fitness within the Fire Service.”
“By being at the event, people will be able to connect with the Firefighters and see what it is all about.”
The event is completely non-profit and all the monies collected on the day go straight to the Fire Fighters Charity, which offers a range of services that reach over 5,000 people. Some of the services provided by the charity include supervised activities to help beneficiaries with health problems, nursing support, help with recuperation after life changing events, child and family programmes and advice.
Paul said: “The Fire Fighters Charity is a non-profit organisation that supports serving and retired Firefighters and their extended families. Their service is invaluable.”
Community Safety events are also a big part of the British Firefighter Challenge. This year Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service are offering spectators the chance to educate themselves and their families on how to stay safe on our roads and at home. Firefighters will give fire-talks and community safety demonstrations. These come as part of the many demonstrations open to the public throughout the year across the county, giving the community a chance to meet the personnel and experience the equipment available to Firefighters at their time of need. This will help the little ones be more involved with the firefighting community, and watch close as the people they look up to explain what the job is all about.
A brewery tent provided by Everards of Leicestershire and a barbeque provided by Chartwells catering team, along with numerous children’s activities and games that include a mini fire engine they can have ride on around campus. There will also be a host of history information provided by The Heritage Centre, Fire Service Museum, Leicester Castle and Newark Museum offering spectators a chance to experience the rich history of Leicester from Richard III to modern day.
John said: “I wanted to be a firefighter since I was a child. This event will be amazing for the whole family, and an opportunity to learn some life-long skills.”
Laura agrees, saying that she decided to join the fire service, looking for more meaningful experiences. “I wanted to keep active, work in a team and be able to enjoy going to work, where every day is different and I can make a difference to the members of the public.”
For more information, go to www.britishfirefighterchallenge.co.uk