The toughest two minutes

In full protective clothing and with breathing protection you soon start to sweat. And running for miles with all the equipment is also unimaginable for many. But that is precisely what South African Henco Swart and his colleagues are doing. They are preparing themselves for the "toughest two minutes": the "Toughest firefighter alive" contest.

In the running event in the South African province of Gauteng around Johannesburg, they always cause a stir: when Henco Swart, Dewald Meintjes, Gary Kaufmann, Marco van Vuuren, and Scott Liebenberg stand on the starting line in their complete personal protective equipment (PPE), they attract all the attention. When asked why they do it, they quickly have an answer ready: as preparation for one of the toughest contests in the world.

The Rosenbauer Performance Team South Africa

Henco Swart and his colleagues are the "Rosenbauer Performance Team South Africa." They take part in fire fighter contests – and with a lot of success. In the largest and most prestigious contest in South Africa – the "Toughest firefighter alive" in Cape Town – the team came in second place last year. This time around they want to win. And they're training hard to do so.

The five men, some of whom are professional and some voluntary firefighters, have to master the toughest tasks during the contest. Taking part in running events should prepare their bodies for the strain. "You have to get used to running in full gear. You sweat a lot more, and some parts of the body – especially the neck – experience different strains from the helmet and SCBA unit", says Henco Swart. The five firefighters are also steeling their bodies with regular power training, and last but not least with operations and exercises with their fire departments.


Five demanding tasks

The contests demand all from the men: first they have to run up the steps of a five story tower with a hose on their backs. Then a rolled up hose has to be pulled up by rope. After running down from the tower, they have to pick up a sledgehammer. With this, a steel I-beam has to be moved half a meter blow after blow. When this task has been mastered, they have to run 30 m with a full hose and spray a target. And finally a 90 kg dummy is waiting, which has to be carried 30 m to the finish line by the firefighters.


And as if these tasks were not challenging enough, they also have to be mastered in full PPE, including a connected SCBA unit. This is an extreme challenge for body and mind: "You have to overcome your personal limits and carry on, even when your entire body is aching", is how Henco Swart describes the gigantic challenge.


Not all equipment is the same

Swart and his colleagues rely on the personal protective equipment from Rosenbauer. As little weight as possible and as much freedom of movement as possible – that's the big advantage of the Rosenbauer personal protective equipment for the five men. "Our old PPE was heavy and uncomfortable. Now the boots fit better, the helmet sits well, the protective clothing is much lighter, and the freedom of movement is completely different. With the PPE from Rosenbauer, we can move more quickly and maintain a higher speed for longer", Henco Swart is convinced by the advantages of the protective equipment.


The ambitious goal: Interschutz 2020

The Rosenbauer Performance Team pursues ambitious targets. After last year's second place in the "Toughest firefighter alive" in Cape Town, this year they want to win the team event. Subsequently, the five men also want to compete in international contests. The big dream: to take part at the next Interschutz in the USA in 2020. Until then, you will often see them on the starting lines of running contests – in Rosenbauer's complete protective equipment.