A trio of Wellesley firefighters are putting their skills to the test this summer, competing in a series of FireFit competitions across the province.On July 18-19, Shannon Martin and Tabitha Siegfried of St. Clements and Maddy Lavigne of Linwood won a pair of gold medals in the relay and tandem races at the Western Ontario Regionals in Point Edward.
Martin, who started with the Wellesley Fire Department last summer, described the event.
“We’re fully geared up, we have our full bunker gear on, mask, helmet, boots, pack on the back and everything,” she said. “So we start at the bottom of six flights of stairs and we pick up a hose roll – four-foot bundle, four-inch hose that weighs 42 pounds – and we carry the bundle up the six flights of stairs and when we get to the top, we hoist another roll of hose from the bottom up to the top of the stairs. Once you get it over the top, you head back down the stairs, and you have to hit every step on your way back down. From there, you jump on the kaiser – a force machine – and you straddle the big chunk of metal and you take a hammer and you hit it, and it has to go a certain distance. From there, you jump off and you run through cones that are set up, and then once you get to the end of the cones you grab a charged hose line – pressurized with water – and you pull it to the end and you have to open up the hose and hit a target. Then you drop the hose, and it’s the hard part. You go and you pick up a 175-pound dummy, and you have to drag it backwards to the finish line.”
It’s a grueling feat. Martin joked that she’s usually tired by the end of the stairs. But the trio of rookie firefighters – Siegfried also joined the department last summer, while Lavigne got on board this past winter – have been training hard to get up to speed.
“We go out to the (Waterloo Region Emergency Services Training and Research Complex) and we have basically a full course set up there,” Martin said. “We also head out to behind the community centre here in St. Clements where there’s a nice little hill and we’ll do wind sprinting and weights, and really, anything and everything.”
The trio plan to compete at the Eastern Ontario Regional meet in Wasaga Beach August 22-23. They also hope to qualify for the Canadian Nationals September 16-20 in Kitchener, an event that will be televised.
It’s a lot of work taking part in the contests, it’s often called, “the hardest two minutes in sports,” but it’s worth it, Martin said.
“Obviously being physically fit and capable is a huge part of being a firefighter – you never know what you’re going to get into and when you’re going to need to carry somebody out and what not. And as women, it’s always going to be a little bit harder no matter what we do about it. Doing these competitions I have already noticed that my strength and endurance have improved and I think that’s so important as a female firefighter, just to maintain that.”