YOU need to climb a six-metre high ladder in six seconds to compete in the sport of firefighters.
More than a dozen brigades met yesterday at Victoria Park Reserve to compete in the south-west district firefighting brigade association competition.
Connecting hoses and hydrants in time was key to the day.
While there were no smoke or flames to battle, events like the ladder race tested the nerves of junior and senior brigade members.
“It’s very unforgiving — it’s a hard race,” Warrnambool brigade chairman Malcolm Bishop said.
There was no time to trip over a hose during the timed events — one of the toughest being a fire cart pulled by a team of five, with one man climbing to the top of a tower to hose the mark once it was connected to water below.
Loose hydrants burst into the air, while one cart narrowly missed bystanders after it came loose mid-race, injuring the runner.
While 19th century fire carts are no longer familiar sights at bushfires, they remain traditions from the days of the brass-helmeted firefighter.
Since first entering competitions 35 years ago from Mortlake, Mr Bishop said camaraderie kept generations coming back.
“You meet a lot of people from around the state and there’s a lot of friendship,” Mr Bishop said.
Bragging rights have their place but when bushfires become big enough to suck in brigades from around the state, some faces are already familiar when they reach the front line.
“If we’re part of strike teams like at the fires in Kentbruck we know each other, Warrnambool brigade first lieutenant Wayne Rooke said.
Hundreds more are expected at this year’s urban brigade association championships which will take place in Warrnambool with the junior event booked for February 23-24 and seniors for March 9-11.