Ray Bailey extinguished his competition in the hotly contested Raglan Firefighter Challenge held near the wharf last week.
Thirteen competitors from the volunteer brigade donned protective clothing, gloves, helmet and breathing apparatus – a combined weight of 25 kilograms – to run out and roll up hoses, put up a ladder, drag a 75-kilogram dummy, carry two 20kg drums of liquid and run up a flight of stairs for bragging rights as Raglan’s top firefighter.

“I don’t want to gloat, I want to win with dignity,” says Ray, who completed the tasks in two minutes and 26 seconds.

“I took it out by heaps!”

In second place with a time of two minutes and 42 seconds was Brett Soanes, who last year won the challenge with Dave Thompson when the event was contested in a partnership. Grahame Field came third, in two minutes and 45 seconds.

Brigade training officer Leanna Darby, who put together the challenge with Daniel Mills, says it was started last year “as a fun way to let the guys test their skills and strength and provide them with bragging rights for the year”.

It is based on the international competition Toughest Firefighter and the national Combat Challenge, she says. “Elements of both are brought together to give us our own competition. The elements that the firefighters exhibit in this race provide a basis for them to then go on and compete at other firefighting competitions.”

The challenge was so hotly contested by the firefighters last year that some blamed their partners if they didn’t do well, so a decision was made to make it an individual pursuit, says Leanna, who is said to “love the competitive stuff” herself. (For the record, she did say “Michael Thompson got beaten by a girl!”)

The general consensus of the challenge last Wednesday night seems to be that it was “horrible”.

“It was horrible, says Brett, who did the challenge first. “I was tired just unrolling the hose.”
“Horrible,” says Grahame. “I just wanted to get it over and done with.”

Steve O’Byrne was expected to place but had problems with his hose, finishing in three minutes and 36 seconds.

Actually, most of the blokes had difficulties when it came to handling their hoses.

The best way to work the hose is to do it really, really fast, says Ray. That worked for him, he reckons. He won a trophy and a voucher from Orca Restaurant and Bar for his winning efforts.

The challenge ended at the top of the stairs on Lily St.

Time keeper Wheturangi Tepania, who had hurt his hand the week before so couldn’t compete, says: “They get to the top of the stairs and have a little collapse, usually have a heart attack, then come down.”

The defib was on hand just in case.

Meanwhile, on the sidelines, there was plenty of banter targeted towards those who were watching and not taking part in the challenge.

“John Hart reckons he would have done it if he hadn’t gone away on holiday for 34 years,” was one of the comments that roused much laughter.

All in all: “It was a really cool night,” says Ray. “Everyone put in tons of effort – even the people who came last really slogged their guts out.”

Like Raglan fire chief Kevin Holmes, who limped home in four minutes and 15 seconds. But he was injured!

Inger Vos