Firefighting fitness |

Firefighting fitness

Hayden man preparing for world competition in Las Vegas

Alexis DeLaCruz

A group of wide-eyed Hayden Valley Elementary School students were treated to more than just a “Stop, Drop and Roll” lesson Wednesday.

The eager group of kindergartners and first-graders experienced firsthand what West Routt Fire Protection District firefighters do for a living as a page for a one-vehicle, noninjury accident on U.S. Highway 40 crackled over a radio during the lesson.

“We’ve got to go,” Chief Bryan Rickman said. “We have a car accident we have to go to.”

Firefighter Dal Leck, who was demonstrating how to put on his bunker gear to the students during a Fire Prevention Week activity, followed Rickman out of the elementary school.

“We’re sorry we had to bail, but that’s part of the deal,” Rickman said later. “It’s sort of why we’re here.”

West Routt Fire Protection District was called to the accident because of a possible fuel leak after a 1966 Ford truck veered off U.S. Highway 40 into a grove of small shrubs. No injuries were reported.

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For Rickman and Leck, teaching children about fire safety and responding to accidents is all in a day’s work.

So is fitness.

Leck, who volunteers for West Routt Fire and works as a full-time firefighter for Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden, has been training non-stop for the upcoming Scott On-Target Firefighter Combat Challenge World Competition in Las Vegas.

At 53, Leck currently is ranked fourth in the U.S. Leck has competed twice in regional firefighting competitions this year and has placed first and second.

“It’s very intense,” Leck said Tuesday. “At (the World Competition), there are like 600 or 700 firefighters competing from around the globe. This thing truly is getting really big.”

The challenge is a timed event that puts firefighters through a grueling “real-life firefighting” simulation course, requiring competitors to climb towers carrying 45-pound air packs and drag 175-pound dummies 100 feet. Leck competes in the “Over 50” category at the competition.

“The competition is mostly legs and lungs,” he said Wednesday from the back of the fire truck. “When I get done, it’s about all I can do to stand up. You’re just exhausted.”

Leck said he is feeling “pretty confident” and hopes to break the current world record in his class: 1 minute, 48 seconds. That record was set by a 54-year-old Colorado Springs firefighter, Leck said.

Leck’s best time is 1 minute, 55 seconds.

“I’d just like to exceed my personal best,” he said. “I’d be really happy to place in the top three.”

Leck began competing in the challenges six years ago as a way to promote fitness among firefighters.

“Hopefully my competing inspires people to walk a mile, lift some weights to stay fit,” he said.

Preparing for the competition, Nov. 8 to 10, has kept Leck busy. In addition to working his full-time job and volunteering for West Routt, Leck has been working out for up to four hours a day, lifting weights and running to prepare for the challenge. He also sets up a weekly obstacle course at the West Routt Fire training facility where he times himself. His diet has changed to consuming about 3,000 calories of “mostly carbs” and drinking about a gallon of water a day.

“It’s amazing how intense (Leck) is,” Rickman said. “He’s a model firefighter.”

On Wednesday, Leck wasn’t focused on training – he was busy teaching the elementary students about how to get out of a house full of smoke and not to be afraid of firefighters in bunker gear.

“These kids are a lot of fun,” he said. “This is what I really enjoy doing.”