SC county FF is one of 'best female athletes in the world'

"Just keep moving," Firefighter Heidi Charest told herself during the finals of the Firefighter Combat Challenge World Championships


Lisa Wilson
The Island Packet (Hilton Head Island, S.C.)

Heidi Charest of Lady's Island had the slightest of leads in the finals of the Firefighting Combat Challenge World Championships in Irving, Texas, two weeks ago. Her focus turned to keeping that lead as she dragged a 175-pound mannequin across the finish line.

"Just keep moving," she told herself. "Don't let it down. Keep moving."

"Just keep moving," Firefighter Heidi Charest told herself during the finals of the Firefighting Combat Challenge World Championships. "Don't let it down. Keep moving." (Photo/Lady's Island - St. Helena Fire District)

Picking up Rescue Randy, as the competition mannequin is known, is the hardest part, Charest said. She didn't want to have to do it twice.

As tough as it is — hefting and dragging the mannequin that weighs 25 pounds more than she does — that part of the race is her favorite.

"I see it as a great accomplishment, not only as a female but as a firefighter," she said, explaining that the skill could mean saving the life of a fellow firefighter in an emergency situation.

Charest, one of only two female firefighters with Lady's Island- St. Helena Fire District, held her lead to cross the finish line and, before the weekend was over, she had earned three world titles: first in the Open Female Division, first in the Over 40 Female Division, and first in the Male-Female Tandem Division with a male partner from a Texas fire station.

The Firefighting Combat Challenge tests firefighters in practical skills they need on the job. Dressed in 50 pounds of protective gear, firefighters must complete five challenges:

— Carry a 42-pound hose pack up a five-story tower.

— Hoist another 42-pound hose pack to the top of the tower and run back down the five stories, making sure to hit every step.

— Drive a 160-pound steel beam five feet with a mallet to simulate forced entry.

— Negotiate a slalom course without missing or knocking over any obstacle, and hit a target with a water stream.

— Lift a 175-pound mannequin and drag it across the finish line.

Charest, 40, finished the Female Open finals course in under 3 minutes with a time of 2:47:20.

She had qualified for the World Championships at a Myrtle Beach competition in August.

Charest said the first part of the course, the tower, is the section she likes the least, so she sets her focus on three flights of stairs at a time.

"One, two, three, done," she counts as she climbs. "Coming off the tower, my quads were already fatigued."

Charest, who is competitive by nature and also competes in power-lifting, drew on her training to push her forward.

"I'm big on training for my job and want to be physically active for as long as I can. ... It's such a physically demanding job."

"Heidi will never say it — she is extremely humble about her accomplishments — so I will. Heidi has proven herself to be one of the best female athletes in the world," said the fire district's Assistant Chief Will Vaigneur. "We are so proud of Heidi."

Even though Charest holds three world titles, she's not done. After a short break, she'll start training again.

"I want to focus on getting my personal best."

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(c)2020 The Island Packet (Hilton Head, S.C.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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