Community Police & Fire

Gig Harbor man impresses at World’s Strongest Firefighter competition

Posted on March 8th, 2023 By:

If you should ever need to be carried out of a burning building, Zack Hash would be a strong candidate.

The Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One firefighter placed seventh Saturday, March 4, in the World’s Strongest Firefighter competition as part of the 2023 Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, Ohio.

Hash, 26, competed against 46 others Friday in four preliminary events that correlated with strength and skills of firefighting jobs — Viking press, power stairs, seated arm-over-arm pull and fatback farmer’s carry. He described the tasks as awkward, not perfect as in Olympic weightlifting.

Events correlate to firefighting

“All strongman events replicate things that we would be asked to do at fires or even EMS calls,” said Hash, who works out of Station 51 on Kimball Drive. “If you called 911 and I needed to pick you up and carry you out of a building or lift you off the ground and get you back into bed, you won’t be perfectly balanced like an Olympic weightlifting bar.”

Zack Hash with Arnold Schwarzenegger

Zack Hash with Arnold Schwarzenegger

Hash was among 18 who qualified for Saturday’s finals. The group included 12 heavyweight men, two middleweight men (under 231 pounds) and two women. Automatically qualifying were defending champion Daniel Camacho and third-place finisher Brooks Larkin.

Yes, 231 pounds is considered middleweight. Hash, though tipping the scales at 280 pounds, wasn’t among the larger participants.

Not all about strength

“I was not quite as big as them, but it’s not always about how big you are, it’s about how strong and quick you are,” he said. “There’s a lot more athleticism in these events. A smaller guy can beat a bigger guy by being quicker and more athletic.”

As a two-way lineman at Gig Harbor High, from which the 6-foot-2 Hash graduated in 2014, he weighed 315 pounds. But he’s stronger now, he said.

Saturday’s finals featured four grueling events — axe hold, sandbag carry, fire hydrant load and ambulance tire deadlift.

Second in axe hold

Hash excelled in axe hold, in which firefighters held 25-pound weighted axes straight out to their sides for as long as they could. He stood statuesque for 59.77 seconds, just 1.61 seconds shy of the winning time.

Zack Hash competing in sandbag carry

Zack Hash competing in sandbag carry

In sandbag carry, firefighters lift bags of 225, 250 and 300 pounds (one by one) and carry them 30 feet to a traffic cone and back. In fire hydrant load, they hoist weighted hydrants of 175, 200, 225 and 250 pounds, upright, onto a 4-foot-high platform. During ambulance tire deadlift, participants dead lift a bar with three tires on each end, weighing 600 pounds, as many times as possible in 60 seconds.

Andrew Burton of Lavon, Texas, emerged as the 2023 champion. Hash felt entirely satisfied with seventh place.

“It feels great,” he said in a phone interview Monday. “I was just happy to be part of the competition, even just to make it on the finalist stage with Arnold (Schwarzenegger) and all the other celebrities I had a chance to meet. The fact that I did so well was just icing on the cake. I just wanted to make my wife (Jordan) and family proud, and I think I did that.”

Firefighters need to stay fit

All Gig Harbor Fire stations are furnished with gyms. The firefighters’ union contract sets aside time to use them. Though they’re busy responding to calls, training, cooking meals and cleaning, Chief Dennis Doan says he doubts there’s a firefighter who doesn’t work out every day.

Zack Hash competing in the ambulance tire deadlift

Zack Hash competing in the ambulance tire deadlift

“It’s not just being physically fit to do the job, it’s being mentally fit, too,” he said. “Whether they’re running or lifting weights, being in the gym together, a little competition, it helps us both physically and mentally. It keeps us healthy. This is a difficult job every day, and you definitely have to be healthy and fit to do it.”

Hash, who has been training for strongman competition for three years, gets in most of that specific work outside the firehouse, at Gig Harbor Strength and Fitness and Dungeon Strength in Federal Way.

A strong, capable body helps a person accomplish everyday tasks as well as in firefighting, Hash said.

Zack Hash and wife Jordan at World's Strongest Firefighter competition

Zack Hash and wife Jordan at World’s Strongest Firefighter competition

“At work, talking about forcing doors or carrying ladders or operating hose lines, some things would take more than one person,” said Hash, who’s in his fifth year with the department. “If I can do it on my own without needing help … The more strong and capable you are, the easier things are and the more of an asset you are.”

Good words from the chief

The chief says Hash is more than just a bundle of muscles.

“He’s a big man, he’s got big arms, but he’s probably one of the kindest firefighters we have,” Doan said. “He has one of the best attitudes. He’s a big man, but he’s got a really big heart, too.”

Watch the finals on YouTube here.