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Team of Snow Lake firefighters heading to world fire games

A four-person team of firefighters from Snow Lake is taking on a once-in-a-lifetime challenge later this summer.
Bernard Fourie, Ashton Lief, Rene Gagnon and Rick Leaman, each of the Snow Lake Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department, will head to Winnipeg to take part in the World Fire and Police Games in August.

A four-person team of firefighters from Snow Lake is taking on a once-in-a-lifetime challenge later this summer.

Ashton Lief, Rick Leaman, Bernard Fourie and Rene Gagnon will represent the Snow Lake Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department at the upcoming World Fire and Police Games. The worldwide event, held every two years in various cities around the world, will be held in Winnipeg from July 28-Aug. 6.

“They call it the Olympics of fire games,” said Fourie.

Fourie, the department’s deputy chief, was the first person to share information about the competition earlier this year, having received an email about it. At first, department members joked about the idea of going down to Winnipeg for the event, but the laughter died off and some began taking the idea seriously.

“To be honest with you, we were joking around - then all of sudden, it was, ‘No. Let’s go. We’re gonna go,” said Gagnon.

“There was four of us who said we were going to train and we got going.”

The World Police and Fire Games feature first responders and law enforcement taking part in events that may or may not have to do with their day-to-day duties. Events like table tennis, cornhole, trap shooting and dodgeball are on the event slate. Those won’t be the event the four Snow Lakers have in mind - they are training for the intimidatingly-named Ultimate Firefighter event.

The Ultimate Firefighter event is a three-day gauntlet, first as an individual event and then later as a team event, putting each participant through their paces. The event consists of four stages - first, a hose task involving moving lengths of two-and-a-half-inch hose from place to place, followed by a weight and strength stage including ladders, heavy packs and water spraying. The third stage involves an obstance course, with participants needing to drag rescue dummies, run through cones, hit beams and cross the finish line, then the fourth and maybe toughest stage - the high rise climb.

All four Snow Lakers will take part both individually and as a four-person team. Training for the events has been gruelling, often involving cardio exercise in full or partial turnout gear. Lief has been tasked with coming up with training regimens for all four participants.

“I would say we started off with a lot of walking, running through the events that we’re going to be in, running with the packs on, running stairs, hitting the gym,” Gagnon said.

“It started off with just myself. Then I started wearing my jacket, but the other three have been wearing the packs and their turnout gear. We've been gradually adding more as we went along.”

“If anybody wanted to try it, the door’s always open. We’ll take anybody who wants to come train with us,” said Fourie.

Support from Snow Lakers has not been in short supply while the four prepare.

“You remember Rocky, when he’s running through Philadelphia and people are following him? It’s almost like that,” said Fourie.

“We’ve had tremendous support from the community,” added Lief, who said local businesses have sponsored the team and helped them cover some expenses.

“We’ve had a bunch of letters out to local businesses and companies. We’ve got lots of support there.”

When asked what their goal for taking part is, the group remained jokey - one said “First place!” while laughing. The team includes two participants with grandchildren, members said - while the team may be first place in Snow Lake’s hearts, the real goal is to represent Snow Lake and northern Manitoba well - they’re the only team from the region taking part in the event.

“To be honest with you, I think we want to challenge ourselves to see where we're at. These games happen every two years. Maybe some of us will never go to it again, it may never come back to Canada,” said Gagnon.

“For us, it was to challenge ourselves, the camaraderie, to meet other people from all over the world doing the same thing. If we end up placing? Then we made our town proud, ourselves proud and our families proud.”

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