Canadian Firefighter Magazine

Conquering the hill: The story of Firefit champion Katie Ross

By Jason Woodford   

Features Fitness firefighter Ontario wellness

Photo: Shauna Coulter

It’s said the wolf on top of the hill is not as hungry as the wolf climbing the hill.

On the sidelines, Katherine “Katie” Ross embodies the sport of Firefit. She’s all smiles, helpful and enthusiastic, but on the inside, she’s starving. From the time Firefit’s Mike Gilbert yells “Go!”, she’s all business.

Touted by many as the “toughest two minutes in sports”, Firefit is a series of practical skills performed by firefighters. These skills are known as the five facets or, to some, the five stages of pain. They are as follows:

  1. Stair climb (with a 42lbs high rise pack)
  2. Equipment hoist (42lbs hose roll)
  3. Force Machine (with a deadblow hammer)
  4. Charged hose advance
  5. Rescue Randy victim drag (175lbs)

All of these events must be done wearing the full firefighter ensemble, weighing upwards of 60 pounds.


Since 2019, Firefit Katie—as she’s known by aspiring young fans—has been that wolf on top of the hill. That was the year she surpassed Alivia Walker as the fastest female in the Firefit world. Like a car without a rear-view mirror, there’s been no looking back.

Ross has been a full-time firefighter in Brampton, Ont., since 2017. Growing up playing sports is where she developed her competitive nature. Competing at a high level of CrossFit and attending events such as Wodapolooza, has made her no stranger to the competition floor. However, things haven’t always been sunshine and rainbows for Ross. In 2017, she was told there was no room for her on a relay team. So, with the help and encouragement of long-time competitor Chip Pringle, she packed her car and drove to Ottawa to compete in her first individual race.

The next few years would help mold Ross into the champion she has become. Rigorous training and a dedication to learning new techniques made 2018 promising, helping push women further below two minutes—to 1:56. Only a handful of women have reached the elusive category known as “sub2”. This helped to build Ross’s appetite.

She’s chasing a time, not a person. Photo: Shauna Coulter

Although Ross is most certainly the wolf on top of the hill, if you were to ask her, she would tell you she is always the wolf still climbing the hill. Never full, never satisfied. She’s chasing a time, not a person. Although winning the race is important, it leaves too many things up for debate: Did someone have a bad race? Were they injured? Was the weather a factor? A time is carved in stone; it’s undeniable.

The time “Stink Bomb” Katie—a name given to her by her supportive sponsors—is chasing is under 1:50. In 2023, she ran a time of 1:51.66 at a regional event in Windsor, breaking her old record by .11 seconds. That wasn’t enough. At the national event held in Sarnia, she inched closer with a 1:50.85 in a wildcard race. Even though those were both new records, it still wasn’t enough.

At the sold-out 2023 Firefit National Championship, held in Kamloops, B.C., Firefit owner Dale McRoberts shared with the crowd a very personal story of a long-time friend who lost his leg to cancer. This friend started training with McRoberts and soon he began running marathons. With every step this person took, he said it felt like there was a pebble in his shoe, yet he pushed on regardless of how cumbersome that ‘pebble’ got. McRoberts hoped this story would encourage others to overcome adversity.

At the main event on the Saturday, Ross’s foot was swollen and taped up. A nagging injury—a pebble in her shoe. But she stated that she could have the results or excuses, not both. Ross raced anyway.

Katherine “Katie” Ross finished at 1:46.53.

Marilyn Monroe is quoted as saying, “Give a woman the right pair of shoes and she’ll conquer the world.” Ross’s footwear of choice is a pair of lace-up bunker boots, and Firefit is her world.

Jason Woodford has been a firefighter for 14 years. He’s a large proponent of fitness in the fire service.

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