Delta firefighters get into ‘heated’ competition

Team Westshore hoping to blaze a trail to the podium at firefighter's national competition in Quebec

Pictured Team Westshore member Reed Taylor drags a 175 lb. dummy 100 feet along the Fire Combat Challenge course during a training session for the national finals Sept. 1 and 2 in Baie-Comeau

Pictured Team Westshore member Reed Taylor drags a 175 lb. dummy 100 feet along the Fire Combat Challenge course during a training session for the national finals Sept. 1 and 2 in Baie-Comeau

A sound resembling a hyperventilating Darth Vader comes wheezing down the stairs at  Firehall No. 7 in the Tilbury Industrial Park.

Reed Taylor, a 26-year-old Delta firefighter from Mission, has just finished running up four flights of stairs at the firefighter training centre with full gear on—breathing apparatus, a 45-lb. weight on his shoulders, and has hauled a hefty load tied to a rope up from the ground.

Every step must be touched on the way down, before Reed runs to the “kaiser” and wields a sledgehammer to simulate busting down a door to a blazing building.

He then sprints through an obstacle of pylons, grabs a charged hose with 300-lbs. of drag, and hits a fixed target with a stream of water. Finally, he grabs “Rescue Randy,” a 175-lb. dummy simulating an unconscious body, and drags him 100 feet to the finish line.

Exhausted, Reed tears the respirator from his face, and checks his time. He’s disappointed, and sheepishly suggests the number not be shared publicly. In truth, the time is likely to place him in the top 10 in Canadian firefighters vying for the prestigious National Scott FireFit Championships, taking place in Quebec’s Baie-Comeau on Sept. 1 and 2.

Delta’s Team Westshore has six members on their team, but four will go to the nationals this year. Reed was rookie of the year in 2011.

Jamie McGarva, 38, from Surrey, has been competing for six years and currently holds Canada’s top time of 1:17. Although 12 years older than Reed and pushing 40, Jamie is at the elite level of firefighter competition.

Jamie has been tops in B.C. for two years running, finished second in Canada last year, and fourth in the world.

“It’s nice for me, but I couldn’t do it without the support of the team and the sponsors,” he says humbly, adding it’s the team that really pushes him to achieve his goals.

It’s also his family who help do that. His mother, wife and sisters come out and cheer him on at local events.

So, how does he manage to pull off such Herculean feats at 38? That’s a question better asked of Mark Millward, 48, from Vancouver, who is tops in Canada in the 45-plus category.

“It’s one of those sports where it’s an all-around athlete kind of thing,” he says, adding it isn’t just strength or speed that wins the day.

Mark’s been at the competition since he began firefighting 16 years ago, originally as a fitness test to get into the department. Once a British soldier who immigrated from London, England, he first thought about joining the RCMP. But after meeting some friends who were firefighters, that career plan changed.

“The more I talked to them about their job, the more I realized it was something I wanted to do,” he says.

Mark came second in Canada in 1999 during the nationals in Penticton, an early achievement for Delta’s fire department.

“For me to come out and get second in Canada so early in our development was definitely surprising,” he says with a touch of pride in his voice. “We had a few beers that night.”

Reed says Jamie and Mark are great guys to learn from, and they demonstrate it’s more about technique than brute strength. And although each firefighter has an individual challenge ahead of them, there are also team trials where the times of the top three competitors are added up.

“You don’t want to let your team down by running poorly,” he says.

The team trains from May to September, meeting once a week on the course. Part of the motivation of not falling behind is ensuring the team isn’t let down, says Jamie.

Ryan Rickards, 36, from Langley, has been training for 12 years, but has had to take the last couple of years off for surgery on his arm from an injury sustained during renovations.

Another elite member of the team, Ryan finished seventh in the world in his second year of competition. Although the injury could have forced him into competitive retirement, he came back.

“I don’t know if it’s a motivation so much as an addiction,” he says, adding friendly rivalry and a little “one-upmanship” with other fire departments keeps him hungry.

“I want to stop, but I can’t,” he says, laughing.

Ryan’s not sure why the older guys tend to perform so much better than the younger ones, but speculates it’s about nerves and poise.

“Guys train nine months for this. If you trip on the stairs, all that training is for naught.”

Jamie agrees.

“As you get older it seems you can push harder and longer,” he says.

Ryan doesn’t think Mark will ever quit competing, because he loves the training.

“He’ll keep going and going until one day he keels over on the course and dies. And he’ll die happy.”

Just Posted

Investigators are on the scene Tuesday (May 18) of a fatal motorcycle collision at Hallert and Bell roads on Matsqui Prairie in Abbotsford. (PHOTO: Shane MacKichan)
Motorcyclist, 64, killed in crash with SUV in Abbotsford

Collision took place Tuesday morning at Bell and Hallert roads

Thirteen-year-old Allison Hickman was last seen in Chilliwack May 14. (RCMP photo)
RCMP say missing Surrey teenager was last seen in Chilliwack

Allison Hickman was last seen in the downtown Chilliwack area on May 14

Dr. Euiseok Kim is the medical director of the new Abbotsford post-COVID-19 recovery clinic. (Submitted)
Post-COVID-19 recovery clinic opens in Abbotsford

New facility following model of first clinic which opened in Surrey

Two small dogs were also discovered by the officer, one had died, and the other was taken by animal control and sent for veterinary care with the BC SPCA. (File Photo)
Body discovered in parked van in Mission with 2 dogs, 1 dead

Remains in state of decomposition, surviving dog sent for veterinary care with BC SPCA

Reinhard “Bud” Loewen has now been charged with 21 counts of sexual assault related to his massage business. (Facebook photo)
Former Abbotsford masseur now faces 21 counts of sexual assault

Bud Loewen of Bud’s Massage Therapy initally faced three charges

A prowling coyote proved no match for a stray black cat who chased it out of a Port Moody parking lot Friday, May 14. (Twitter/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Cat who chases away coyote asked to join Port Moody, Vancouver police 

Caught on camera Friday, the black cat jumps out from under a parked car and runs the wild animal out of a vacant lot

White Rock’s Marine Drive is being restricted to single-lane one-way traffic to allow more patio space for waterfront restaurants, with indoor dining restricted from the end of March to some time after the May 24 weekend. (Peace Arch News)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate falls to 411 cases Tuesday

360 people in hospital, up slightly, two more deaths

The Banff National Park entrance is shown in Banff, Alta., Tuesday, March 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Minister asks Canadians to camp carefully in national parks as season starts

Kitchen shelters in Banff National Park closed, trails on Vancouver Island will only be one-way

Names of those aboard the ship are seen at Komagata Maru monument in downtown Vancouver, on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. The City of Vancouver has issued an apology for its racist role in denying entry to 376 passengers aboard a ship that was forced to return to India over a century ago. Mayor Kennedy Stewart says discrimination by the city had “cruel effects” on the Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims aboard the Komagata Maru, which arrived in Burrard Inlet on May 23, 1914. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver mayor says sorry for city’s role in turning away South Asians in 1914

Kennedy Stewart has declared May 23 as the annual Komagata Maru Day of Remembrance

A crew of WestCoast WILD Adventures employees tackled an onslaught of litter left at the ‘Locks of Love’ fence at Wally Creek on May 2. (Anne-Marie Gosselin photo)
Litter woes consume popular ‘Locks of Love’ fence on B.C.’s Pacific Rim

Popular view spot near Tofino plagued by people hanging masks and other unwanted garbage

Vincent Doumeizel, senior advisor at the United Nations Global Compact on Oceans, as well as director for the Food Programme for the Lloyd’s Register Foundation, pulls up some sugar kelp seaweed off the French coast in April 2020. He was the keynote speaker during the opening ceremony of the inaugural Seaweed Days Festival. (Vincent Doumeizel/Submitted)
Let’s hear it for seaweed: slimy, unsexy and the world’s greatest untapped food source

Experts talks emerging industry’s challenges and potential at Sidney inaugural Seawood Days Festival

Troy Patterson, a Cadboro Bay 15-year-old, got a virtual meeting with B.C.’s environment minister months after he started an online petition calling for construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline to stop. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
B.C. teen’s 23,000-name Coastal GasLink petition gets him an audience with the minister

15-year-old Saanich high school student and George Heyman discussed project for about 30 minutes

Announced Tuesday, May 18 by Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth, the province added gyms, dance and fitness studios to its list of places where face coverings are mandatory (AP/Steven Senne)
Masks now required at all times inside B.C. gyms, including during workouts

Those who disobey could be subject to a $230 fine

Over the years, police have worked with sketch artists to draw what the boys could have looked like at the times of their deaths. (Vancouver Police Department)
DNA breakthrough expected in cold case involving murdered Vancouver boys, 7 and 8

Forensic analysts are working to identify relatives of the children, whose bodies were found in Stanley Park in 1953

Most Read