by Stephen Dafoe
Rushing into a blazing building to save lives and fight fires is a serious enterprise that requires a proper mixture of skill and stamina, something few people get to see close up.
But at this summer’s Morinville Festival Days, attendees will have the unique opportunity to see firefighters from Morinville, the region and beyond putting those skills to the test during the Morinville Fire Department’s Fire Within Combat Challenge.
Morinville Firefighter Shane Tellier has been organizing the ninth annual event for the Department. It takes place on Saturday, June 22 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the parking lot of the Ray McDonald Sports Center.
“It brings the community together. It gives the fire department a chance to let everyone see the skills needed as firefighters for emergency situations,” Tellier said. “It brings fire departments together from around the province. We get a number of departments involved every year. We get recurring departments, which is great, but meeting new people and talking about fire-related things is another big bonus to the event.”
Dressed in full gear, competitors will begin the course by carrying a packed fire hose on their back up four flights of stairs where they will drop the pack and use a rope to haul another bundled fire hose from the ground up to the top floor.
Upon the completion of that task, each firefighter has to make their way back down to ground level, ensuring that their feet touch each step in the four-storey scaffold structure.
Back on the ground, competitors have to drive a concrete block a distance of one foot using a sledgehammer, an exercise that replicates the exertion needed for a forced entry.
Next, the firefighter has to manoeuvre around a set of pylons to grab a fully charged fire hose, drag it back across the parking lot obstacle course and let loose on a target.
The firefighters then exchange the heavy hose for an equally weighty rescue dummy, dragging the 200-pound dead weight back across the length of the parking lot to reach the finish line.
As challenging as the obstacle course is, Tellier thinks Morinville’s chances at success in the battle are good.
“We have a couple of guys that take it pretty seriously,” Tellier said. “They train a lot. I think they’re pretty good, but you never know.”
The Department is hoping to see the bleachers filled to see the event and cheer on local and regional competitors.
“It’s definitely a family-friendly event,” Tellier said, adding that this year’s event will include raffles for attendees, a barbecue put on by Sturgeon Rural Crime Watch, and a beer garden run by the Jessica Martel Memorial Foundation for the adults. “It’s going to be action all afternoon.”
Morinville Festival Days run June 21 to 23.