Youth and adults around Europe frantically preparing for the Firefighters Olympics in Celje!
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This year's Firefighters Olympics in Slovenia is a special event in several ways: Not only are the youth games and the adult games mixed this year - because of the pandemic it has also been three full years since the last youth games were held in Switzerland in 2019.
A CTIF NEWS Team consisting of Tore Eriksson, Past CTIF President, and Monica Rhodiner,formert member of the HazMat Commission, visited the Youth Fire brigade in Laholm on a weekend in May, while the youth teams were carrying out training and exercises before the summer games in Slovenia.
Story edited and published by Björn Ulfsson, CTIF News.
The mixed Games, when adult firefighters are competing at the same time as the youth teams, is always a great event attracting thousands of viewers.
The youth games, however, are held more often - normally every second year. The youth fire brigades are the foundation and the recruiting ground for the larger Firefighter Olympics.
The very idea of Youth Fire Brigades is, of course, also a recruiting ground within communities all around Europe, to replenish fire halls around the continent in general. Firefighting competitions, and other related activities, often serve to reach out to youth and help them become interested in firefighting, either as a career or serving as volunteers in their communities, and their importance of the bi-yearly CTIF Competitions cannot be underestimated.
Both the Youth Games and the adult Firefighters´ Olympics are arranged by the CTIF Competitions´ Commission, which consists of members from countries all around Europe. Deeply connected to this work is also the CTIF International Youth Leader Commission which regularly arranges Referee Training and other educational youth camps to prepare new functioneers for the CTIF Competitions.
On the European continent, youth fire brigades are common and in many communities across Europe, they are almost taken for granted.
However, in Scandinavia, youth fire brigades are not nearly as common, and actually only Finland and Sweden currently has youth teams participating in the CTIF Games.
Laholm, a small town of 6500 people, is the center of CTIF youth fire brigades in Sweden. Their comparatively strong level of activity owes a lot to an extremely dedicated volunteer leader, Stefan Agnesson, who puts in a lot of his own time to keep the local youth fire brigade going.
Largely because of him, the interest is strong, and the membership in Laholm is currently pushing 40 youth firefighters.
At times, other towns may send youth to participate in Lahom's activities, but the idea of youth fire brigades have not really taken off in most other communities the way it has in Laholm.
Norway, who is otherwise very active in CTIF, currently has no youth team competing in the CTIF Games, and neither does Denmark.
The Celje Firefighters´Olympics 2022 reignited the Fire in the Youth Fire Brigade
When the news hit last summer that Slovenia was going to finally arrange the Firefighter's Olympics in Celje this year, the youth fire brigade in Laholm felt excited and reignited with renewed energy.
Laholm´s youth teams started regular training sessions in the Fall of 2021, and kept them going regularly throughout the winter and Spring.
Two teams of 9, ages 12 to 16, are now gearing up to go to Celje in July, along with two teams from Finland. Expectations are of course running high:
"In our youth brigade, the pandemic meant that some of our members never got to compete, because they got to be older than 16 when the games came back on after the pandemic. Hopefully, we get to keep them as youth leaders in coming years instead", says Elvira Paulsson, head of the youth delegation for Team Sweden.
Elvira adds that Laholm Youth Fire Brigade feels lucky that they had such a large influx of new interested youth members ready to dedicate time for this, after losing so many competitors when Slovenia had to cancel the Games in 2021.
The fact they managed to get new supplies in time for the training season was also largely due to luck, and to strong renewed support from the community. Getting back on their feet after so much uncertainty and restricted activities during the pandemic required more than just dedication - it was also about replenishing supplies and convincing the community that, ´hey this is actually happening this time - No more lockdown, let's do this´!
"We are also very grateful to our community who have provided several great sponsors. There is a lot of work and resources going into this: we have built our own track, and we have our own branded helmets, clothes and shoes. All of this would be impossible without support", says Elvira Paulsson.
Many new members also means lots of training, and not just strength training, but also needed education in "CTIF culture", especially when it comes to understanding how to perform the various tasks involved in the games.
During the first weekend of 6-7 May, about twenty of the youth fire brigade's members gathered with Stefan Agnesson at the helm and with several of the youth leaders as participants.
Mick and Linda Norton (photo on the left) who have been serving as referees at the CTIF Games for several decades, were especially invited to come out from the UK to help train one weekend in early May.
The program included both theory and practice. The Norton's brought a lot of confidence and good exercise drill to the Swedish team, experience which may turn out to be very valuable during the real event in July.
The theoretical part included a review of rules and useful tips for the practical implementation of various competition elements such as hose rolling with an obstacle course and how to quickly tie different knots.
All competition events take place with timekeeping and learning to refine the details in the implementation of various events can mean the difference between winning and losing.
The corps has also purchased a passenger car trailer that has been specially designed to be able to transport equipment to the competitions that take place in Celje, Slovenia on July 17-24 this summer.
"In other countries, it is considered an important and normal activity to train young people and to utilize the youth fire brigades to ease recruitment to the rescue services. Unfortunately in Sweden, the number of youth fire brigades has been decreasedíng steadily for several years"
The CTIF National Committee in Sweden hopes that more fire & rescue services will invest in youth fire brigades and youth teams, says Tore Eriksson, who currently serves as co-chair of CTIF Sweden.
"In other countries, it is considered an important and normal activity to train young people and to utilize the youth fire brigades to ease recruitment to the rescue services. Unfortunately in Sweden, the number of youth fire brigades has been decreasedíng steadily for several years, which is why it is so important for us to be able to participate on site and experience the enthusiasm of both young people, their leaders and many dedicated parents. We wish the Youth Fire Brigade of Laholm good luck at this summer's competitions", says Tore Eriksson, who served as the president of CTIF International for 8 years, 2012- 2020.
The youth fire brigade Laholm also hopes with this report to be able to contribute to an increased interest in exchange and cooperation internationally, but most importantly to connect better with CTIF departments throughout the Nordic region.
Please stay tuned to CTIF.org and to our Facebook page CTIF Fire & Rescue News, as we will continue to follow Team Sweden and other teams competing in Celje this year, with live video, stories and later a short video documentary from the event!
Photo Credits: Tore Eriksson (Past CTIF President) Monica Rhodiner (former member of the CTIF HazMat Commission) and Elvira Paulsson, head of the youth delegation for Team Sweden.
This story was based on a report by former CTIF President Tore Eriksson and Monica Rhodiner, who visited a training weekend in Laholm in May. They both provided lots of photos, videos and information, which we will publish later in connection to the report from Celje in July. Tore Eriksson served as CTIF President 2012 - 2020, and continues to serve in the Swedish National Committee and as the coordinator of the ISO 17840 implementation work, as well as an advisor to the CTIF Executive Committee.