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Durango firefighter wins award

November 23, 2001

Ray Fredette, a Durango firefighter pictured at the fire station last week, placed second in the Firefighters Combat Challenge in Memphis, Tenn., earlier this month. The strenuous competition is known as the "toughest two minutes in sports."

By Jennifer Reeder
Special to the Herald

For a man his age, Ray Fredette can sure put out a fire.

The Durango firefighter won an award while representing Durango at the Firefighters Combat Challenge in Memphis, Tenn., earlier this month. Fredette, 50, placed second in his age category with a time of 1:57:63, missing first place by just 6/100ths of a second.

He competed in the 50-and-older age group. Fredette’s wife, Laurie, was quick to point out her husband’s time proves "a man of his years" can compete with younger competitors.

"They call it the toughest two minutes in sports," she said.

The purpose of the international contest is "to encourage firefighter fitness and demonstrate the profession’s rigors to the public," according to the competition’s Web site. Contestants run through an obstacle course that simulates real-life firefighting situations, such as running upstairs with hoses and "rescuing" dummies.

"We call the competition ‘The IQ Test,’" Fredette said. "If you do it, you’re pretty dumb."

Laurie Fredette dismissed her husband’s attempts to downplay his achievement.

"To beat two minutes puts you in an elite category," she said. "It’s a really proud moment when you see your husband marching with the finalists. The nationals are the best of the best."

Fredette’s performance in the qualifying regional round Oct. 30 gave him the chance to race in the final rounds, held Oct. 31 - Nov. 4.

Competitors begin the race by running up five flights of stairs with a 50-pound hose while "bunkered up" in 50 pounds of clothing and breathing through a self-contained breathing apparatus.

At the top of the stairs, the hose is thrown into a box, and a "doughnut roll," or tightly wound hose, is pulled hand-over-hand from the ground.

After the doughnut roll is thrown into the box, contestants simulate ventilating a building with a Kaiser sled, a piece of training equipment.

Then they run 100 feet through cones and grab a charged, or water-filled, fire hose, which they carry 100 feet and discharge at a target. During the final leg, contestants run backwards to the finish line while dragging a 180-pound dummy by its armpits.

"I’ll try to do it 15 or 20 seconds faster next time," Fredette said.

Fredette, who has been a Durango firefighter for seven years, grew up in New York. His younger brother, Tom, is a firefighter working at ground zero.

After living in Seattle and working on oil tankers, Fredette and his wife decided to seek a drier climate. After moving to Durango, Fredette looked into volunteering at the fire station. After meeting the captain, he became a paid firefighter in June 1994.

"We’ve felt very welcome in this town," Fredette said.

Fredette also helped the Durango relay team qualify for the finals, though the team didn’t compete in the event when some teammates were called back to work.

One relay teammate, Steve Lift, told a "classic Ray story" to illustrate Fredette’s excellent conditioning. A young firefighter from a different agency asked Fredette to lead him on a run through a training course, which Fredette agreed to do. But a few minutes into the exercise, Fredette turned around to discover the young firefighter had vanished. The man was found throwing up behind the showers.

"Ray felt terrible, of course," said Lift with a laugh. He added that the young man was never seen at the Durango Fire Station again.

"Ray is everybody’s idol," Lift said. "He’s what we all aspire to."

Lift is not alone in his praise of Fredette and his success at the competition.

"It’s quite an accomplishment, especially for a guy from a small department and no training facilities competing with firefighters from the big cities," fire Captain Cris Garcia said.

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