If you live in Hertfordshire you are lucky enough to be near the fire station where a new champion is based.
A couple of weeks ago the "British Firefighter Challenge", a gruelling contest, was held in sunny Moreton-in-Marsh. The title makes the competition sound as though it is restricted to firefighters within the British Isles. Not a bit of it! The strongest, fittest most agile competitors arrive from all over Europe - some of them aren't even active firefighters, they train purely to compete in this competition!
This is not some local fun day out for our heroes; not some light-hearted obstacle course. Firefighter fitness is of course crucial – in an emergency it could mean the difference between life and death. The event has been dubbed ‘the toughest 2 minutes in sport', and if you watch the footage you will see why.
Competitors wear their full firefighting gear plus oxygen tank strapped to their backs and begin with a sprint up 6 flights of stairs to the top of a tower where they have to haul up a 20kg hose. They race down the stairs again (not missing a step) and immediately have to bash a 72kg weight with a 4kg sledgehammer. It's called a Keiser Force Machine - a simulated forcible entry-chopping device developed specifically for the fire service.
In the final two stages of the event, the firefighters have to shuttle run four foam containers weighing 20Kg each and drag a 7o kg drill dummy for 60 metres. Watch the video - Louis is in the blue lane. (You will find Louis at 1 hour, 08 minutes: 1.08)
You might feel exhausted just reading this, if you watch it, you might need to lie down for a bit, but competing in it...and winning the 18-29 age category, well that surely warrants hero status.
If you have read my book, It's Raining in Moscow and I Forgot my Umbrella, you will remember Louis, the brave firefighter who rescues Billy and his Gran from an inferno. Louis is a real person. He gave me plenty of excellent advice for my book to make it authentic. Guess what, he also was the winner of the "Britain's Fittest Firefighter" contest (18-29 category), and what is more, his Hertfordshire unit went on to win the Team Challenge.
In this extract from It's Raining in Moscow and I Forgot my Umbrella, (written from Billy's perspective) Louis has to retrieve his car keys from a tree. Beryl, one of the residents of Autumn Days Care Home who has Frontotemporal dementia, gave them to her magpie friend.
I looked out of the window to see Louis searching on the ground for his keys. I could see the magpie sitting on a branch with the keys in its beak. Maybe they were too heavy, or maybe they weren’t shiny enough for Birdie, but he dropped them. They fell to the branch below and got stuck on a twig.
“You’ll need a ladder,” I called down to Louis.
“I haven’t got time for that,” he shouted back and started running towards the tree. He took a massive jump and held onto the branch with both hands. Then he sort of walked up the tree trunk, grabbed his keys and dropped down to the grass.
“Gotta go. See you mate,” he shouted, and then he was gone.
I looked at Beryl who had been watching too.
"Blimey,” she said. “What a dish!”
So if you are going to crash your car, or set your chip pan alight, try to do it near the Hemel Hempstead Fire Station - that's where Louis and his team are based!
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