Friendly competition at Oakville’s Combat Tower kicks off National Firefit Championship season

Group shot of Firefighters
Friendly competition at Oakville’s Combat Tower  kicks off National Firefit Championship season

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Keri Schoonderwoerd

Keri Schoonderwoerd

Keri is a communications professional with a Master's Degree in Professional Writing and Public Relations and over 20 years experience in professional writing, editing, public relations, marketing communications, crisis communication and fundraising.

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Pam Damoff, Member of Parliament for Oakville North-Burlington, visited Oakville’s firefighter “Combat Tower” on Friday to help kick off the start of National Firefit Championship season in Canada. The season officially begins for GTA competitors the first week of July.

Oakville’s firefighter combat team hosted the warm-up event to prepare its members for the up coming competition season and to demonstrate the high level of skill required to compete in the rigorous challenge. Former competitors from across southern Ontario joined rookie competitors in the friendly contest designed to hone their skills heading into competition season.

“I was thrilled to join our firefighters as they prepared for the combat challenge and was once again impressed at the level of physical fitness required to compete at the National level,” said MP Damoff, who attended the challenge and cheered on participants. “I am proud of how Oakville firefighters train, not just for competition but to be prepared to protect our community in the event of an emergency.”

The Firefit Challenge was created to encourage firefighter fitness and demonstrate the profession’s rigors to the public. Wearing “full bunker gear” and a standard breathing apparatus, competitors race against each other and the clock as they simulate the physical demands of real-life firefighting by performing a series of five tasks. Firefighters begin by scaling a five-story tower carrying a 45-pound hose pack. Once at the top, they drop the hose pack and hoist up another 45-pound hose pack bundle hand-over-hand from the ground. They then descend the five-storeys and, once on the ground, climb on a machine that simulates breaking through a door or chopping through a roof by using a nine-pound shot mallet to drive a 160-pound beam a distance of five feet.

After that, participants run a slalom course of fire hydrants before grabbing a fully-charged hose and dragging it 85 feet. They then have to strike a target with a stream of water simulating putting out a fire. Finally, firefighters drag a 185-pound training mannequin 100 feet to the finish line.

“If you think running a marathon is tough, try competing in a firefighter combat challenge event,” said Phil Cartwright, a member of Team Oakville and organizer of Friday’s kickoff event. “It is physically punishing and requires an elite level of fitness, so while we are preparing for a fun national-level competition, our firefighting team is being conditioned to better do our jobs and save lives every day in the community.”

Oakville’s Firefit training facility features a Combat Tower largely thanks to MP Damoff, who was instrumental in having the construction of the tower approved by Town Council in 2014. Before they had a Combat Tower, the Oakville team used its burn tower to train. But it has concrete stairs, it’s dark inside and the railings aren’t the standard height of Combat tower steel structures. The Combat Tower is an exact replica of the one used in all Combat events, ensuring Team Oakville is well prepared and conditioned for the grueling challenge. Besides being used for Combat training, the Oakville tower is used for recruitment, fitness training, ladder/pump operations, high-rise response and firefighter self-rescue and survival.

Over 60 firefighters attended Oakville’s kick off event. Cartwright believes he and his teammates have become better firefighters because of their Combat Challenge training where the adrenalin running through their veins is equal to what they experience fighting fires. World record holder, 22 year old Ian Van Reenen, a member of Oakville’s fire fighting team, completed the course with the fastest time of the day at 1:21.

Thanks to donations from Combat Challenge participants, over $600 was collected at Friday’s event in support of United Way Fort McMurray.

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