A battle between north and south heated up Wellington's waterfront today as the country's fittest firefighters demonstrated their might.
A Cantabrian won the "toughest two minutes" National Firefighter Combat Challenge that drew 150 competitors to the capital for the three-day event.
Southbridge Volunteer Brigade firefighter Steven Maw, 22, who operates a digger by day, took out the title with his finishing time of 1 minute 46 seconds.
Pairs were pitted against each other before a crowd of hundreds in today's final, boosting out a turbo-charged effort based on the fitness test firefighters must pass annually.
To win the title, Maw, of Canterbury's Southbridge Fire Brigade, had to do some serious heavy lifting after already competing alongside his dad and brother in an earlier relay.
With the clock ticking, the combat challenge saw firefighters wearing 25kg of gear including oxygen tanks, run a 19kg hose up four flights of stairs, haul another 19kg dead-weight, run downstairs to pick up a 50kg hose, aim the stream through a tiny window, then drag an 80kg dummy to the finish line, simulating a real life rescue.
Maw came fourth last year and said achieving the winning time was ''tough.''
''It's great though. I've been doing it for five years and this is the first time I've won.''
Another Cantabrian was among the veteran competitors.
Christchurch Airport senior firefighter Tom Reid has 32 years in the brigades under his belt, and at 59 years old finished in 2min 31 seconds.
''To me it's about maintaining personal fitness - it's core business for us,'' he said. ''The thing is racing against these guys who are a lot younger, they're bloody fast.''
The heavy lifting wasn't just for the lads.
Volunteer firefighters and registered nurses Karin Bos and Tineke van der Heide of the Little River Brigade on Banks Peninsula demonstrated some serious muscle from their training chopping firewood.
Bos was back after a three year hiatus after slipping a disc in her back hauling the dummy. She said being able to lift loads heavier than herself was essential for a firefighter.
''If you can't pick up an 80kg person then you are not going to be able to get them out of the house and there's no point in going in.''
Bos was so relieved to finish she did not even check her time - der Heide finished in under five minutes.
United Fire Brigades Association of New Zealand chief executive George Verry said the competition, begun in 2007, was an opportunity to remind Kiwis about the important role firefighters played.
- The Dominion Post