A Whanganui firefighter is preparing for the toughest challenge of her life.

Tanja Grunwald took out the over-40 women's category at the National FireFighter Combat Challenge in Wellington in March, and is off to the world event in the United States on October 14.

She's been training for six months for an event that will take her, she hopes, less than three minutes to complete.

To compete in the worlds, she needed a qaulifying time of under three minutes 30 seconds; in the nationals her time was three minutes 18 seconds.


"To get under three minutes is what I'm aiming for. And of course I want to win. To me, coming second is losing," Ms Grunwald said.

The Firefighter Combat Challenge is considered one of the toughest physical competitions around.

The combat challenge course involves a stair climb, hose hoist and stair descent, forcible entry, obstacle course and hose advance, and finishes with the victim rescue.

That's all done with fully kitted up in firefighting gear, including breathing apparatus - which Ms Grunwald describes as "like breathing through a straw".

For the victim rescue, Ms Grunwald will be carrying 20kg of weight on her back as well as the 85kg "victim" dummy - meaning she'll be carrying nearly double her own body weight.

Her training schedule has been gruelling. Ms Grunwald regularly runs up the Durie Hill steps, then practises pulling a heavy weight up the tower steps. She does regular weight training, and travels to the Bulls' fire station for specialist training.

Several New Zealand firefighters, some from Christchurch Airport, will also be competing in the world event.

Ms Grunwald said she was grateful to her sponsors - Rosenbauer (clothing), Ryan from RTR Fitness (weight training), Cherie Maua (massage) and Tony Walton Custom Art (signwriting for her competition helmet).

She also wants to think her family for their support, especially her four children and her wife-to-be, Bridget.