Ladder Racing is a Thing!

Ladder Racing is a Thing!

23rd April 2019

Whilst recently searching the internet for some information on ladders, one of our team members here at Safety Fabrications was astonished to come across the weird sport of ladder racing!  Yes, you read that right – ladder racing is now a “thing”.  To be fair, the “sport” was invented by firefighters and developed out of a firehouse ladder climbing game and has become so popular that there is a state championship in the USA and even a dominant franchise, the West Sayville Fire Department in Suffolk County, New York. 

The rules of ladder racing are pretty simple – climbers race towards a wall, carrying a ladder, position the ladder and then use it to climb the wall (or sections of the wall).  The winner is first to the top.  The New York State Drill Team Captain’s Association state championship takes place in August each year and the sport is so popular that more than 60 teams participate.  The overall winner is the team that accumulates the most points for winning events by the end of the day.  West Sayville’s Flying Dutchmen team has won the championship eleven times, so they’re champions at ladder racing and, one would hope, also champions at putting out fires when necessary.

The ladder race is part of a wider Drill Team competition which consists of several races, both on foot and with apparatus.  These events are designed to showcase (and practise) tournament skills such as ladder climbing, laying and coupling of fire hoses, hooking hoses to fire hydrants, hitting a target with a stream of water, manoeuvring trucks, and even forming a bucket brigade.

It’s all good, clean fun and, because it’s taken so seriously (as evidenced by the existence of the championships), it provides firefighters with regular practice sessions which not only hone and improve their firefighting skills, but keeps them all fit and healthy too.

The Drill Team competitions started back in 1935 in the New York metropolitan area and the competitions have spread since then to include many other area championships and state-wide recognition. 

There is even a Wikipedia page dedicated to Drill Team racing, though it’s been dubbed “firematic racing” by the online, user-generated “encyclopaedia” of everything.  The ladder competitions are divided into two categories – Old-fashioned and Motorised.  It’s the Old-fashioned races that require the most endurance.  There are strict rules for the ladder events, which include the requirement that the tip of the ladder must be sited in the correct safety area at the top – with disqualification the penalty for non-compliance. 

Here in the UK, firefighters tend to have a different approach and regional firefighters often participate in sponsored climbs (often of well-known local landmarks) to raise funds for good causes.  Firefighters are often required to work at height, using specialised access ladders and we all depend on these heroes for our safety and peace of mind, both here in Britain and in America.