Canadian Firefighter Magazine

Q&A: Training for the 2024 Can-Am Police-Fire Games with Azalea Carlaw

By Brittani Schroeder   

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Azalea Carlaw

Recently, editor Brittani Schroeder sat down with Azalea Carlaw, Fire Prevention Officer and Firefighter with the Township of Woolwich Fire Department, Floradale Station, who is headed off to defend her bronze medals and go for gold at the 2024 Can-Am Police-Fire Games in July.

 

Q: What motivated you to choose a career as a firefighter?

Azalea: I was raised by two law enforcement officers, so I grew up in a first responder family and environment. My dad was also a volunteer firefighter when he wasn’t working as a police

officer.

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I remember times from my childhood when my dad would get a page on his pager for a fire or a medical emergency. As a kid, it was exciting to hear a call come in and know that he was going to help a family in their time of need.

When I was younger, I was sure I would become a police officer. It’s what both my parents did full-time. Experiencing both professions firsthand, from my upbringing I was able to see that firefighters are truly the first point of contact in any emergency. I applied to the local fire station because I wanted to make a positive impact in the community that I reside in.

I’ve been a firefighter for three years and was the first female hired at the Floradale Station. Originally, I didn’t think much about being the first female, but as my career has progressed, I see how imperative it is that a service is reflective of its community members. One of the most integral parts of being a fire prevention officer is fire and life safety education. When I can teach the public, specifically children, about fire and life safety, it is an amazing feeling to have young girls look up to me and recognize that they, too, can make a difference in their community. It reinforces that they can be anything that they want to be.

Q: Now, turning our focus to the Can-Am Police-Fire Games, can you tell me about your experiences competing in the past?

Azalea: In my first year as a firefighter, in 2022, I attended the Games in Windsor, Ont. I hadn’t specifically trained for any event because I learned of the games quite late. I have always enjoyed swimming, so I enrolled in two swimming events. I wasn’t too focused on the competition because I hadn’t trained, but I came home with two bronze medals in those events.

Q: Looking forward to the 2024 Games in July, how have you been training ahead of that?

Azalea: Last year, at the World Police and Fire Games in Winnipeg, I competed in the push-pull event, which joins bench press and deadlift for a combined weight. I brought home the first-ever gold medal for Woolwich Fire in powerlifting. That win was a little unexpected because the sheer calibre of athletes at the games is incredible.

I enjoy CrossFit and am an avid member of a local CrossFit gym. I’m not training to be a powerlifter per se, but I enjoy the movements. So, this year at the Can-Am Police-Fire Games, I will be competing in powerlifting, which includes deadlift, bench press, and back squat. I also registered for two swimming events again.

I have reviewed past records to determine where I might rank within the events that I am registering for. While I am not a “powerlifter” per se, I believe my deadlift is competitive with some of the top performers for my age category.

I plan to attend with another Canadian firefighter who is from Wellesley Township. We’re really excited to attend the event and meet other first responders from Canada and the United States. Anyone can attend and compete if they are a fire service member, law enforcement, EMS personnel or other first responder. You don’t have to qualify ahead of time.

Q: What is your favourite aspect of the Games?

Azalea: The main draw for me is the camaraderie and connecting with other first responders from across North America. Obviously, I get to compete with top athletes in our first responder community, which is an amazing experience in itself. I am there to meet new people, form lifelong friendships, and surround myself with others who share the same ethics and values. We all share a common goal to be fit for duty and to serve our communities to the best of our abilities.

It’s truly an amazing experience to be a part of the first responder family. Everyone who attends these events cheers for all involved—it doesn’t matter if they’re from Canada or the U.S.A. It’s an experience and an opportunity that I wouldn’t want anyone to miss. Whether you’re ready to compete at a top level or not, it’s just a fantastic way to meet other first responders and show a love for whatever sport you enjoy doing.


Editor’s note: This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. The Can-Am Police-Fire Games are taking place in Butler County, Pennsylvania, from July 15 to 21. To learn more about the event and how to register, click here.


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