Dozens of firefighters from across the continent landed in Whitehorse over the weekend to competitively drag dummies and haul hoses — all in the name of saving lives.
FireFit is a set of championship relay races where participants perform tasks commonly used during real emergency fire situations.
Athletes don 40 pounds of bunker gear and their breathing apparatus, run up a set of stairs with a 42-pound hose, hoist that hose up a tower, and "rescue" a 185-pound dummy, among other things.
Jalene Cartwright came out of the weekend the top female competitor. She is with the CNRL Albian Sands fire department, just north of Fort McMurray, Alta.
"I just like the challenge of it," she said.
That, and the travel. Cartwright says FireFit has taken her as far east as Abu Dhabi and as far south as Phoenix, Ariz., among other places.
She's also made many friends at competitions.
"Everyone supports each other," she said, adding some of her competitors are her closest friends. "You race against yourself, hit a personal best. It's great to make friends all over Canada and the world … and have a drink at the end."
Former world-record holder tries to reclaim crown
Graham MacKenzie, the top male competitor at this weekend's race, is chasing something a little more personal.
The Kamloops, B.C., firefigher is a former world-record holder in the individual race. He completed the course in one minute and 15 seconds in 2010. That title was stripped away by Ian Van Reenen, who completed the course in one minute and 10 seconds in 2016.
MacKenzie's goal is to finish the course at least one second faster by the time national and world championship competitions come around in September. To do this, he's focusing on his feet.
"I've got big, heavy feet," he said. "I've gotta work on my foot speed."
He said this becomes apparent when he's making his way down the tower — something others tend to find to be the easiest portion of the race.
"It frustrates me because I go slow down the tower. The fastest guys go up the same speed as me, but go down faster."
Aside from regaining his spot at the top of the FireFit throne, MacKenzie says his No. 1 motivation for competing is simple — to become a better firefighter.
He says training gives him much more strength and stamina during a real fire call.
"Fitness is maybe three or four on the list of things that you think about [on a real fire call]," he said.
"You can worry about … fire suppression, victim rescue, that kind of stuff. You don't even notice your body until you're well into the scene."
The next FireFit competition is scheduled for June 2-3 in Martensville, Sask. The nationals and world championships are slated for Sept. 5-9, in Spruce Meadows, Alta.