The British Firefighter Challenge (BFC) 2018 took centre stage in one of the UK’s most historic towns, Bury St Edmunds on Friday 27th and Saturday 28th July. In the blistering heat, thousands of spectators came to witness firefighters from all over the world compete for the fastest time.
With temperatures soaring to 37 degrees on the Friday, this was our toughest competition yet! This year’s host county of Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service saw a record 240 firefighters (211 male, 29 female) register for the two-day event, coming from 14 different nations from Austria to India, and over 40 UK Fire and Rescue Services from the south coast of East Sussex, to Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Bury St Edmunds watched on as firefighters were tested to their limits under scorching temperatures, all whilst wearing full personal protective equipment and breathing apparatus weighing up to 30kg in total. Each competitor was tasked to complete eight rigorous stages in their best time: 1) run to the third floor of the tower; 2) 15kg haul aloft; 3) run to the base of the tower; 4) hammer the 72kg Corhaven forcible entry machine to its end; 5) 60m Angus fire hose drag; 6) make up a length 25m hose; 7) 10m equipment carry with 4x20kg containers; and finish with 8) a 60m Ruth Lee casualty rescue weighing 70kg.
The contest provided an insight into the job millions of firefighters across the globe undertake, allowing the public to see how incredibly arduous and dangerous each incident can be. It also brought the community closer together, while people cheered and clapped throughout the day. Firefighters of all ages took part and it was free for the public to spectate. Around the course there were fire-safety activities, face painting, food and drinks and even a Junior Firefighter Challenge allowing the children to have go.
Chris Trendowicz, part of the organising team for the BFC said: ‘The event has been a huge success! This year we saw up to 8,000 spectators and 35,000+ more live streamed on our website or Facebook which is fantastic. Each year the event has grown in size and is attracting more and more interest.’
With not everyone able to make the event in person, this year marked our first BFC with live streaming. Over 35,000 logged onto our website and Facebook streams, which reflects the competition’s growing popularity. This is equally important for us as these numbers will help us attract a greater number of sponsors, without whom we wouldn’t be able to bring you the British Firefighter Challenge.
Mark Hardingham, Chief Fire Officer at Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service said: ‘The great thing about this event is that it brings people from all over the world to raise money for the Fire Fighters Charity and it gives the public a great opportunity to come and look at the role of the fire service and what we do.
‘With the heatwave over the last four weeks, we have had firefighters battling crop fires and they’ve been out in 35 degrees doing that. So this does to an extent replicate what they’re out there doing every day.
‘The planning that has gone into this event is massive because there’s so much that has gone on behind the scenes over the last six to eight months. The local businesses and organisations in Bury have really stepped up and helped us and we really appreciate the support,’ said Mark
Our competitors raised almost £3,000 for the Fire Fighters Charity. There was over £1,000 of donations made across the two days from the children’s course, the raffle, t-shirt sales and the Fire Fighters Charity shop. And this year marked our first Barclays matched funding, helping us raise an additional £1,000!
Family, friends, work colleagues and local residents of Bury St Edmunds flocked to see our heroes battle it out to become the British Firefighter Challenge champion. Dave Budge from Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service was crowned Male Champion, with Emily Crawford from Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service crowned Female Champion.
With 14 different Nations registered, firefighters and teams from Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Gibraltar, Malta, Portugal and as far as India competed. Home countries England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were all present this year too. Divided into eight age categories (male 18–29, 30–34, 35–39, 40–44, 45–49, 50+ and female 18–34 and 35+), Gold, Silver and Bronze were available to take home. An enthralling battle was won by our 2016 Champion Joachim Posanz of Germany in just 2m 54s.
Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service walked away Gold Medal winners for their best three combined times of 10m 26s, Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service were Silver Medal winners with 10m 46s, and hosts Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service took Bronze in a time of 11m 30s.
Each year, the event cannot take place without an enormous team effort. Hosts Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service organised the historic venue helped by funding from Bury Town Council. SGC Security ensured our safety was supervised 24/7, St Johns Ambulance monitored our competitors health in the midst of a heatwave and Breeze Events set up our Music System and PA System to keep everyone informed and energised! Industry sponsors Ballyclare, Ruth Lee, Angus Fire, PBI Products, Skills for Justice, Draeger, Delta Fire, Hunter, Harken Industrial, plus sponsors James Latham, Sainsburys, Ipro and A1 Trophies all supported the event; without whom the event would not be funded, so a huge thank you must go out for all their help. And last but not least, to all our “yellow t-shirt” volunteers who were friends, family, Fire Cadets and Firefighters for Christ. Ferrying competitors to and from Stansted Airport, helping with registration, tirelessly helping reset the course, there are so many unsung heroes; a real team effort thank you.
Our next hosts are Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service. Registration opens on 1 January 2019. All 240 firefighters signed up this year in just ten weeks, so act fast! More information will be coming up on the website. If you are a firefighter interested in competing, a business interested in sponsorship, or a spectator wanting to enjoy a day out with the family, visit our website or send our team an email.
For more information, go to www.britishfirefighterchallenge.co.uk