A FIREMAN from the district has demonstrated a wide range of physical skills to excel in a national competition.

Lea Stephenson, a retained firefighter at Hexham, finished 41st out of 186 competitors from home and abroad at the British Firefighter Challenge, in London.

The 33-year-old health and fitness enthusiast had to run up and down stairs, drag hoses, and carry containers, among other tasks.

But the Tynedale Harrier, from Hexham, said his preparation was key to his high finish in the event, which took place in front of crowds of spectators on Watford’s high street.

“It was all work-related tasks for firefighters,” he said, “but as an athlete who enjoys fitness work, it was all about getting the best out of myself.

“I enjoy the challenge of being a firefighter, and the physical side of it. I practised all of the tasks involved beforehand at Hexham Fire Station, and the day itself in London was a great experience.”

Lea was 31st out of 132 British competitors, and also took part in a relay race.

He added: “I joined a Hertfordshire crew for the relay, and we just missed out on the knock-out stages by six seconds.”

Lea, who won the 400m at the City of Edinburgh Running Festival in July, has only been a retained firefighter for the past 18 months.

“It was great to go there and fly the flag for the district,” he said, “alongside competitors from all around this country and abroad.”

The British Firefighter Challenge is billed as an annual sporting event which pushes competitors to their limits, provides a day of entertainment for spectators, and also raises vital funds for the Firefighters’ Charity, which supports fire service personnel.

Lea and other participants had to climb stairs to top of the multi-storey Crofton Tower, before hauling up 70m of hose.

After making their way back down the tower,other tasks included carrying a 70kg drill dummy.

For full results and further information about the challenges involved, visit www.britishfirefighterchallenge.co.uk.