Firefighters complete annual drill, best get bragging rights
Some of the men called it “the obstacle course from hell,” but members of the Sanibel Fire Rescue District consider their annual assessment drill – a timed exercise of strength and stamina – one of the most important necessities in keeping their minds and bodies sharp.
Others, however, look at it as an opportunity to earn bragging rights over their fellow emergency first responders.
“Last year was a good year for me, but this year – being in school – I haven’t really been preparing too much for this,” said firefighter John DeMaria as he pulled on his tactical gear last Thursday morning behind Fire Station #1. “But next year, I’m going to beat everybody.”
According to training officer Tim Barrett, each member of the SFRD must take part in the assessment drill. In under seven minutes, each firefighter – wearing all tactical gear, an airpack and helmet – must carry a 50-pound fire hose to the top of the Station’s three-story training tower. Once on the roof of the tower, they must hoist a 70-pound hose roll up the side of the building.
Once they return to ground level, they must then use a sledgehammer to drive a 120-pound iron post six feet along a narrow sled. After walking a marked course, they must then carry 100 feet of hose – filled with water – approximately 200 feet, and then spray a designated target. Finally, they must drag a 150-pound mannequin 50 feet to safety.
“Most are the guys are doing it in under three minutes,” said Barrett. “Of course, this turns into a huge competition for bragging rights. But we also don’t want to see anybody get hurt.”
DeMaria was the first member of his shift to complete the exercise, finishing with a time of two minutes, 48 seconds. After a short breather, he reported that he was happy with his effort.
“I was just taking my time, but I did better than I thought I would,” he added. “It was fun.”
Next to complete the course was Joe Nygaard, who finished in two minutes, 31 seconds.
“I know that I did it faster than I did last year, but I’ve been running a lot before work. I think that definitely helped,” Nygaard explained, noting that the exercise got progressively tougher as it continued. “I was running two-thirds of the way down the final stretch, like it was no big deal. But the last section really hurts you.”
Firefighter Tim “Boomer” Carroll agreed with Nygaard’s assessment of the drill.
“All of your muscles really start to burn,” said Carroll, whose time was two minutes, 55 seconds. “By the time you get to the top of the stairs, you start to feel it. And when you get to the dummy, you’re really hurting.”
“The hardest part is when you get to the end,” said fellow fireman Ron Ritchie, 52, who completed the course in three minutes, 51 seconds. “Your arms are burning and you’re huffing and puffing. But it was alright – I showed them that I can still do it.”
Barrett also explained that the SFRD shift which turns in the fastest average time will earn a “Get Out Of Training” pass that can be used once in the coming year.
The best time of the day was turned in by John Reitenbach, who finished the drill in two minutes, 26 seconds. The firefighter had already completed the exercise on Tuesday, but was looking to improve upon his results.
“I took 14 seconds off my time,” he said while receiving congratulations from his co-workers. “I used a different technique to raise the hose bundle. That was the only difference, other than using a quicker step.”