Showing off their athleticism the Township of Wellesley Fire Department’s FireFit team is set to go to nationals after their very first challenge of the season in Wasaga Beach early in July.
The five-person team of Madison Lavigne, Steve Grein, Clayton Greer, Dave Uberig and Wes Balfour is competing this year for their very first time together. Although Lavigne, Uberig and Greer are returning competitors, it’s the first season for Grein and Balfour.
FireFit is a competition based on firefighting tasks commonly performed in emergency situations, challenging participants to perform the strenuous tasks in a timed race format. Teams take part in regional competitions throughout the summer in hopes of making it to nationals, where teams from all over the country fight to be named the best in Canada.
“Throughout the summer they do FireFit regionals. Each competition is trying to better yourself, trying to get a better time that what you did in the last competition and basically you keep running until you get a time to qualify you for nationals,” said Lavigne. “We actually qualified for everything in Wasaga Beach, so we are in pretty good shape right now.”
Regional’s are traditionally a two-day event. The first day consists of individual events, females competing before males in an obstacle course of sorts where they are required to do ascend and then descend on a tower by stairs, next they must hoist a hose to the top landing of the tower, using a chopping simulator competitors are next tasked with a forcible entry, and then run to a fully charged houseline. As the fifth leg of the task, firefighters must show their ability with the hose, dragging it 75 feet and then hitting a target with the water. Finally, competitors must complete a victim rescue of a 165-pound mannequin.
“That is totally on your own. So you try to do your best, run your fastest,” said Lavigne.
The following day is referred to as a relay day which encompasses multiple firefighters on the team to compete together.
“There is what we call an X3, but it really is a tandem of two people,” she said, noting that it is a two-person technical race. “I ran that with one of the guys from the team and then we also do the five-person mixed relay. They break it down into categories, so there are all-girls teams, there are all-guys teams, and then there are mixed teams, which is guys and girls – we are doing the volunteer mixed-relay team this year.”
The team has formal practices every Wednesday night where they use the training centre in Waterloo.
“We have been training hard. We train every Wednesday night together,” she said. “We get together and talk about what our goals are, we push each other and we just train and train and train so that is kind of where we are at right now.”
As the only female on the team, the competition allows her an opportunity to show exactly why she deserves to be on the department.
“I do it because I feel like I have an obligation to be fit so when problems will occur, and being that I am a female I kind of have an idea of what guys are thinking when there is a female behind them. … I know that kind of sucks to say, but that is the reality of it,” she said. “I would like to be the female that is going into situations behind a guy and I hope they can feel confident knowing that I am behind them regardless of what gender I am. That is why I do it, because the job is difficult as it is. Being a short female doesn’t help, so that is my motivation so that I can keep up with the boys.”
Lavigne has been doing competitions for all three years that she has been volunteering with the department.
“My first year I actually just did a relay with three other girls. In order to qualify for the relay, you need to have three to five people and we competed in the all-female relay. We got third in nationals and then those two girls were hired full time,” she said. “So last year I rallied up some guys and ended up finding enough people to do a mixed relay, and we also got third at nationals in Calgary.”
Lavigne is hoping they can continue on with their success, bringing home at least a third-place finish.
“We have a pretty good record, so we don’t want to break it,” she said.
The team has already qualified for nationals this year, which is being held in Ottawa September 6-10.