Competition gathers Sturgeon County’s firefighters

Morinville Firefighter James Docherty competes in the individual component of the Sturgeon County firefighter’s Challenge, held Saturday in Legal. Docherty finished the course with a time of 1:26. – Stephen Dafoe Photos

By Stephen Dafoe

Legal – Firefighters from Redwater, Namao, Gibbons, Bon Accord, Morinville and Legal gathered in Citadel Park Saturday for the annual Firefighters Combat Challenge, an event that pits Sturgeon County volunteer firefighters against one another and themselves to navigate an obstacle course, completing a number of firefighting tasks in the best time.

The four-point event begins with a firefighter in full gear at the bottom of a three-storey scaffold. When the buzzer goes they have to ascend the staircase carrying a fire hose, dropping it on the top story and hoisting another to the top level by rope. From there, the firefighter must return to ground level, taking the time to step firmly on each step on the way down. Once both feet are on the ground they are required to drive a metal block one foot with a sledge hammer, a feat that simulates breaking down a door. Once the sledge hammer is dropped, the firefighter winds their way through a course of pylons, grabs a charged fire hose and drags it back across the field to blast a target. The final leg of the course involves dragging a rescue mannequin back across the field.

Legal Fire Chief Tracy Roulston said every department has an opportunity to host the annual event. “It’s a good showcase for the departments to get together on non-fire related business, socialize and get to know each other and have some fun,” Roulston said. “We find it is a good showcase for the people of the community to see that we are dedicated to what we do and that we are trained and the guys take their job serious.”

Just how well-trained Sturgeon County’s firefighters are was revealed in just how quickly they were able to navigate the course in full gear.

For the group competition, firefighters from different departments were assembled into teams of four members, each member taking one leg of the combat challenge. This year’s championship team was made up of Namao’s Nathan Erickson, Bon Accord’s Fire Chief Gary Power, Morinville’s Devin Wedick and Aryton Balfour from Bon Accord. The four competitors completed the course in 1:13.

Wedick also clocked the best individual time of 1:12, including four seconds of penalties tacked on his actual course time of 1:08. But even the challenge’s oldest competitor, Bon Accord’s Fire Chief Gary power, completed the course in 1:29.

“The times were awesome,” Roulston said. “Some of the individual times were almost as fast as the group times, which is pretty impressive considering most of the people do this as a volunteer. Firefighting is what they love to do.”

One such firefighter, who completed the course with a time of 1:26, is James Docherty. The Morinville firefighter said he joined his department to do something with his time to help out in the community. Docherty said he enjoyed taking part in the annual firefighter’s challenge.

“It’s always a friendly competition,” he said. “It’s fun. Their department came to ours, so we returned the favour.”

Firefighters completed their day of socializing and camaraderie with an evening cabaret.

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