Yukon’s firefighters picked up a pocketful of medals at a regional fitness competition last month.
The Whitehorse Fire Department and the Yukon Fire Marshall’s Office each sent a team to the FireFit event in Vancouver, B.C. two weekends ago.
The competition involves running an obstacle course that simulates challenges that firefighters face on the job.
Deputy Fire Marshall James Paterson snagged a gold in the Fire Officer category, with an impressive time of one minute and 52 seconds, according to the online race results.
“It’s an amazing time,” said Boyd Pyper, a volunteer firefighter from Tagish who was on the Fire Marshall’s Office team. “That man is truly in shape. He’s an inspiration to the whole team.”
In full gear and with breathing apparatus on, competitors have to carry a 45-pound coil of hose up five flights of stairs, then haul up another 45 pounds hand-over-hand to the top of the tower.
Then it’s back down the stairs, to a machine that simulates smashing through a roof with an axe. After that they run about 150 feet, drag a hose fully charged with water back the other way and hit a target with a blast from the nozzle. Then they have to lift a 175-pound dummy – Rescue Randy – under his armpits and drag him back 150 feet to the finish line.
Guys at the top of their game run the course in under two minutes.
All of the “young guys” from both Yukon teams ran the course in less than 2:30, said Pyper.
Pyper, who said he wasn’t happy with his result, still managed to pick up two bronze medals – one in the 50+ age category and one in the Fire Officer category.
He stumbled at the end of his race, he said, trying to haul the rescue dummy to the finish line.
“I got to Randy and suddenly I didn’t have a lot of juice left. I picked Randy up and started hauling Randy and I dropped him, once. And I had to pick him up, and it took me a while to get myself to the point where I could pick him up again.
“I was not even exactly sure where I was at that point. My legs shut down, my head was starting to shut down. Tunnel vision. You hear athletes talk about this sort of thing – I’d never experienced it before.”
The Whitehorse crew came fourth in the relay race, losing the bronze to the Chilliwack team by a hair.
They were competing against some of the fiercest firefighters in the country, said Pyper.
“The Kamloops guys, they’re truly monstrous. Their biceps are the size of my head.”
Nearly everyone either qualified for nationals or is in a wildcard draw to qualify, although many will not be able to make it, said Pyper.
Next year the teams are planning to fundraise for two regional events as well as the nationals, he said.
“All the guys agree with me – next year we train even harder. We now know what we’re doing.
“It’s all lats, lungs and legs, and I didn’t do enough on my legs. And that showed at the end when I had to pick up Randy.”
Being around other veteran competitors was great, said Pyper.
“It was an eye-opening experience, because although we train on our version of the course, doing that real course is different. Being there with the men and women from other fire departments, just seeing how they train and learning from them – we’ve picked up tons of pointers.”
A lot of the credit for the teams’ success goes to Paterson, Pyper said.
“The very fact that we were down there with nine people, this is all to James’s credit. Yes, credit goes to all the young men – and the old man – who went down and ran the races, but this is James’s dream to re-establish this team.
“He and everybody in the Yukon has every bit of right to be proud of what we did, but also of James, and his commitment to getting us down there.”
Contact Jacqueline Ronson at firstname.lastname@example.org