IAFF Local 2665 fire fighter competes in Europe FireFit challenge

O’Fallon fire fighter Heather Gump takes home three awards

By LINDA JARRETT
Correspondent

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED: Heather Gump, a fire fighter/paramedic with the O’Fallon Fire Protection District and member of Fire Fighters Local 2665, recently traveled to Italy to compete in FireFit Europe competition and placed first in a mixed-team relay, third in the overall female individual race and third in female tandem. – FireFit Europe photo

O’Fallon, MO – “The toughest two minutes in sports” is how ESPN describes the FireFit Championships, a competition based on fire fighting tasks performed in emergencies.

IAFF Local 2665’s Heather Gump, a fire fighter/paramedic with the O’Fallon Fire Protection District, agrees. In August, she traveled to Italy to compete in FireFit Europe and placed first in a mixed-team relay, third in the overall female individual race and third in female tandem.

Gump said she has competed in the United States version of FireFit, and while the two competitions are similar, some parts of the European version were more challenging.

‘HARDEST THING I’VE EVER DONE’
“It is honestly the hardest thing I’ve ever done in competition,” she said. “Guys do the whole course in two minutes or less. My best time is 3:12.”

The course begins with a six-story structure where participants race up steps while carrying the hose pack, Gump said. At the top, the fire fighter leans over, hoists up a weight and then races down.

Then, the contestant hits a steel I-beam to a certain point, she said. After that, they run through cones, pick up a charged hose line, advance it 100 feet, hit a target with a water stream, then jog over, pick up a dummy and carry it back 100 feet.

“The weights and the competition level are the same for everyone,” Gump said. “You run the entire course on air, which is the protective equipment we wear when going into a fire.”

O’Fallon Fire Chief Tom Vineyard praised Gump for her accomplishments in the competition.

FIT PHYSICAL CONDITION
“She trains quite a bit and is obviously in fit physical condition,” Vineyard said. “She tires me out just watching her! She has brought us a lot of great publicity, and she works hard at it.”

O’Fallon Assistant Fire Chief Eric Johnston, who serves as shop steward for the department, said the district is very proud of Gump, who currently serves as an engineer/paramedic.

‘SMASHING OLD STEREOTYPES’
“She been competing for years and working her way up to place third in the world in this particular competition is incredible,” Johnston said. “What she brings to the union by showing and smashing some old stereotypes that women can’t be in the fire service is terrific.

“She’s fitter than half the guys in the department, myself included!” he said. “She is a great role model for the next generation.”

ROLE MODEL
Johnston said Gump has worked with Camp Fury for several years and represents the fire service, the union and everything it stands for. “She’s amazing, and we’re very proud of her,” he added.

Camp Fury is a residential Girl Scout Camp for girls 14 to 18 to practice courage, confidence and character while participating in skills related to the fire service, law enforcement and emergency medical services.

HOW HER FIRE FIGHTING CAREER BEGAN
When Gump was in middle school, she was thinking about a medical career. Then, at age 16, she saw a house fire down the street from where she lived with her parents, and that piqued her interest in the fire service.

“I felt like there was something more out there I could do on top of a medical career, something more challenging, and I found the fire service to be the answer to that,” she said.

THE JUNIOR PROGRAM
O’ Fallon Fire Protection District had a firehouse not far from where she lived, and she joined their junior program.

“As soon as I got in their junior program, I knew from the first training that this was what I was going to do,” Gump said. “However, my parents were adamant that I get a degree of some sort, so I did some research and found out that Lindenwood offered a Bachelor of Science in paramedic science, and it was perfect.”

While in college, the City of Olivette hired her as a fire fighter/paramedic, and she volunteered at the O’Fallon Fire Protection District. After graduating in 2015, she stayed at Olivette for two-and-a-half years, then was hired full-time by O’Fallon in 2018.

ASK QUESTIONS
For women considering a career in the fire service, Gump suggests they reach out to females in the profession and ask questions.

“Some women may be intimidated because it is a male-dominated field,” she said. “There are females out there who are willing to give advice, and interested women should reach out to them.”

IT’S NOT LIKE ON TV
For the record, Gump said she watched an episode of “Chicago Fire” and wouldn’t watch it again.

“No way! That’s not how it works!” she laughed. “We see a lot of things on calls here, but what they do isn’t similar.”


 

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