Female Firefighter Motivation

Here’s an article about Heidi Charest who is a firefighter and a competition winner.  Firefighting is a tough job and a lot of women are put off by the idea of being one but Heidi and many others do it every day and do it well! The job is not for everyone and that includes men too, you gotta want it bad and be willing to sacrifice a lot. If you are willing to do that then there is nothing stopping you even if you are just a girl!

Heidi Charest:The World’s Fastest Female Firefighter

Story By Cindy Reid
Photos By Susan Deloach


It has been called “the toughest two minutes of sports.” Take the five most physically demanding aspects of one of the world’s most demanding jobs and do them all in two minutes or under. That pretty much describes the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge.
In November, Lady’s Island St. Helena Fire District firefighter Heidi Charest received the 2012 Grand National Championship Award from the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge. Heidi modestly says, “This is the first year that it was my goal to receive that award, and I was able to because I accrued the most points for placing first in four of the Scott’s Regional Races,” as if she had won a game of horse shoes or corn hole. But what this local firefighter leaves out is that she – Heidi Charest- is the world’s fastest female firefighter.
By the nature of their demanding job firefighters must be physically fit, commonly   training on their off time in order to stay in good shape. At any given moment they may called upon to drag a hose, scale multiple flights of stairs or carry a victim to safety. Born from “the need to develop a physical ability test to determine whether a job applicant had the requisite capabilities to perform the essential job functions of a firefighter” (www.scottfirefighterchallenge.com), the SFCC gives firefighters from all the country, and the world, the opportunity to compete against each other in five grueling events unique
to firefighting.
“… the Challenge seeks to encourage firefighter fitness and demonstrate the profession’s rigors to the public. Wearing ‘full bunker gear’ and the SCOTT Air-Pak breathing apparatus, pairs of competitors race head-to-head as they simulate the physical demands of real-life firefighting by performing a linked series of five tasks … as they race against themselves, their opponent and the clock.”
While wearing full bunker gear (coat, pants, boots, helmet and air pack) participants have to do the following five tasks in as short of time as possible:
1. Stair Climb- climb a 5 story tower with a High Rise Pack (a folded 42 pound hose).
2. Hose Hoist- using hand over hand , pull up a 42 pound hose box 5 stories.
3. Forcible Entry-slam a 9 ½ pound sledgehammer into a 160’ beam until it moves 5 feet.
4. Hose Advance-sprint 140 feet through a serpentine of cones, pick up a charged hose line, and drag it 75 feet through “saloon doors” and hit a target.
5. Victim Rescue- pick up a 175 pound mannequin and drag it backward 100 feet.

Heidi says, “All the obstacles are something you will come across in a fire scene. The women compete on exactly the same course, using the  same equipment, because that is how it is in real life as a firefighter.”
According to the people at Scott, most firefighters could do the course in 5 to 6 minutes, to be competitive participants usually complete it in 3 minutes or less .Heidi’s first place times were:
Tyler TX 10/12/12  Time 2:55:10,
Charleston WVA 08/17/12  Time 2:58:50,
Montgomery AL 07/13/12  Time 3:19:10,
North Charleston SC 05/18/12 Time 3:05:34.
In addition she and partner Brandon Cummingham, a military firefighter at Fort Gordon, Augusta GA are the National Record holders for the Co-Ed Tandem, time 1:26:81. There are several videos posted on YouTube that show just how hard this is to do, and just how easy Heidi and the other competitors make it look.

Role Model

Originally from Seekonk, Massachusetts, Heidi and her husband of twelve years, Richard Charest, came to Beaufort via the United States Marine Corps. Richard, a USMC Mobility Officer for MAG-31, was stationed here from 2001-03 and then back again in 2007. Heidi says, “When we moved back here I was looking for a full time job and I wanted to apply to the fire department. Being a certified EMT Basic; I was encouraged by the fire department so I took the course at TCL and started volunteering at the Lady’s Island fire department. That led to being hired in  2008. In regards to competing, I did the state race in July 2008 but it wasn’t until 2009 that I tried the Scott On Target Challenge. “
Chief Bruce Kline says, “We are so fortunate to have Heidi as a firefighter with the Lady’s Island St. Helena Fire District. While her physical prowess is obvious, her amazing attitude and ability to motivate all those around her make for one amazing person.  Whether she is fighting a blaze or talking to children about fire safety, Heidi radiates professionalism and sincere dedication to our profession and those we serve.”
In 2010, Heidi was one of only twelve female firefighters in the nation chosen for the 2011 Female Firefighters Calendar. Heidi says, “It wasn’t easy to get into the calendar. I had to get two letters of recommendation from the fire department, two from the community and make a short video. The reason I did it was because a portion of the proceeds from the calendar sales goes to help burn victims.”
Locally a portion of the proceeds from the calendar sales went to Camp Can Do, a camp for children ages six to seventeen who have been treated for a serious burn injury. The camp is located at St Christopher’s Camp at Seabrook Island outside of Charleston. Heidi says “I go out to the camp every year. It is inspiring to me that despite the children’s’ unfortunate injuries that they look up to me. These children are my role models, my motivation.”
When asked what she says to little girls who see her at the fire station,  Heidi says “I say ‘You can be one too!’ Girls see me and all the other female firefighters and I tell them ‘you can do it!’ When people find out we have five female firefighters at Lady’s Island they are shocked.” She pauses for a moment, and says, “I love it that my work day isn’t routine. It’s like the famous line from Forrest Gump, ‘Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get!’”

Fit as a Way of Life

Heidi spends many hours a week  training and staying in shape. “That’s why I work out, so I can do my job, “she says, “I like being active and it keeps me healthy. I do miss it when I’m not training- I can’t wait to get back to working out!”
In addition to her regular work outs, Heidi is also a coach at CrossFit Beaufort, “a fitness community formed by local Law Enforcement Officers and Firemen” where there are no mirrors, no machines and no  TVs’. Their philosophy is that “you are the machine” and their training routines can be used by anyone, from grandparents to cage fighters. Heidi says, “I came into CrossFit about a year ago and I was hooked. It is like  big fitness family here, we cheer each other on . We are friends and we are here for each other.” She says, “ I had to become certified through Crossfit in order to lead classes, and it has been very rewarding,  I like coaching, because I get to watch people achieve their goals. “
Betsy and Teddy Binette are the owners of Crossfit Beaufort, and Betsy says “Heidi is a tremendous coach, she has been an asset to Crossfit and she really is a people person. And it goes without saying that she is an amazing athlete.”
Heidi says, “I go to yoga as well, I try to make it once a week because stretching plays a huge part in our agility. I have seen a huge difference since adding yoga. I eat a more natural diet and am rarely sick”. She follows the Paleo Diet, which is essentially “back to basics, lots of fresh vegetables and no sugars or dairy products.” Active for years with animal programs, Heidi and Richard share their home with five Italian Greyhounds. She says, “They are all rescues, and even though they are the little ones they can out run me!” It is hard to believe that anything can outrun this outstanding athlete!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s