West Sussex firefighters will walk 100 miles wearing full kit and breathing apparatus

West Sussex firefighters Shaun Challis and Lee Smith were given a great send-off this morning as they started a 100-mile walk along the South Downs Way, wearing full fire kit and breathing apparatus.

The pair, who are both based at Shoreham Fire Station, are raising money for Martlets Hospice in Hove and The Fire Fighters Charity.

As they set off in Winchester this morning, they were given fantastic support by the city’s firefighters, who followed them in a fire engine with blue lights flashing.

Shaun said: “We were looking for something a bit different to do. These days, just running a marathon doesn’t really cut it when you’re trying to fundraise. So, we thought we would step it up a bit and attempt the whole South Downs Way while wearing full fire kit and breathing apparatus, which is about two-and-a-half stones worth of equipment.

“I actually ran a marathon earlier in the summer while wearing fire kit and the heat was a real issue, which is why we have chosen to do this in December. The weather may still be against us, especially if it rains, but we are keeping our fingers crossed.”

On Wednesday evening, they will be bedding down at Arundel Fire Station and on Thursday, they will be ‘home’ with members of their own crews at Shoreham Fire Station.

The aim is to arrive in Eastbourne at the end of the trek on Saturday.

For Shaun and Lee, it is a very personal journey as they have both recently lost someone to cancer.

Shoreham firefighters Shaun Challis and Lee Smith

Seeing the care they received at Marlets inspired them to take on the fundraising expedition.

Shaun said: “That has been the real drive behind this, we wanted to give something back because they provide such a great service.

“For me, I lost a really good friend to cancer. He was only 38 and it was all very sudden and took everyone by surprise. But in such a horrible situation, Martlets offered so much support to everyone, and I just wanted to say thank you for that.

“Equally, The Fire Fighters Charity has proven to be a real lifeline to a great number of firefighters, myself and Lee included, over the years. They provide a vital service to emergency service workers, and it’s important their work is able to continue.”

The pair have already raised £320.

Lee Walton, central group commander, said: “There are not many people who would put themselves forward to take on the weather in December out on the South Downs Way, let alone while wearing full fire kit and breathing apparatus.

“All of us at West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service wish them both the very best of luck, we know they are going to do us all proud.”