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Firefit nationals no easy feat for hundreds of firefighters

EDMONTON- Hundreds of Canada’s fittest firefighters are in Edmonton this weekend, competing in the 20th annual Firefit National Championships.

“Firefit is the toughest two minutes in sport. It’s seven evolutions that they put together to make a race,” explained Bob Murray, one of the event coordinators.

But it’s not just a fitness competition; these are the skills firefighters perform on a daily basis.

“This is a good example of the kind of challenges firefighters face on a routine basis,” explained Deputy Chief Dale McLean, with Edmonton Fire Rescue Services.

“This is in a very safe environment, in fact. Firefighters do a combination of these types of events in their normal course of duties, and sometimes in a little bit more parlous and dangerous situations.”

About 300 firefighters will run the course over the weekend, and it’s no easy feat. Competitors race up a five storey tower, hoist a 45 pound weight, run back down the stairs to breach entry with a sledgehammer, shuttle run, drag a fire hose to hit a target and then rescue a 175 pound dummy to complete the course.

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WATCH: Two male firefighters run the course

“It brings out the best, fittest firefighters who want to compete amongst themselves and show a little bit of pride, not only in their profession and themselves, but the city and the department they work for,” said McLean.

It’s not just men that are taking part in the challenge, about 20 women have qualified to compete in the national competition. And the course is exactly the same for both men and women.

“It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” said Carla Penman, a Lieutenant with the North Vancouver Fire Department. “You’re adding the same amount of weight to each person. So, for me, maybe I’m doubling my body weight, whereas for the men, they’re adding a smaller percentage. Not to say it’s any less difficult for the men.”

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WATCH: Two female firefighters run the course

This is the third time Penman has participated in the national championship. She says she started training for the event in February, with heavy lifting and cardio-based workouts.

“A lot of stair running, a lot of weighted stair running,” she said. “Because nothing here is done without heavy weight on your body, between the equipment and all the things that we’re carrying.”

“If you don’t train for it then you just shouldn’t be doing it, because it’s hard on the body, hard on the heart,” Murray added.

Penman says she comes back year after year because she loves the personal challenge. She also hopes it will inspire more women to choose firefighting as a career.

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“I have heard girls that have just got hired recently in fire departments and they always come up and say ‘you know, when I’m done my first year of probation, that’s what I want to do and can you help me?’ And I think it’s great, I’d love to see more women out,” she said with a smile. “I’m just so proud of what we do and I love it.”

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Hundreds of Canada's fittest firefighters are in Edmonton this weekend, competing in the 20th annual Firefit National Championships. Shannon Greer, Global News
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Hundreds of Canada's fittest firefighters are in Edmonton this weekend, competing in the 20th annual Firefit National Championships. Shannon Greer, Global News
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Hundreds of Canada's fittest firefighters are in Edmonton this weekend, competing in the 20th annual Firefit National Championships. Shannon Greer, Global News

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With files from Shannon Greer, Global News.

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