Andrew Burton proclaimed "World's Strongest Firefighter"
June 2, 2023
Firefighter Andrew Burton won the title of 2023 World's Strongest Firefighter at the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, Ohio, competing against firefighters from as far away as Great Britain and the Czech Republic.
"Firefighting and being a strongman are both important to me," Burton said. "I don't only want to identify with my work. I feel like I am both a firefighter and a strongman. Both are about moving efficiently. Being a firefighter and strongman complement one another."
During the two-day event, Burton competed against more than 120 men and women to earn the title of "World's Strongest Firefighter." As a seasoned strongman competitor, he came into the competition with a winning strategy: Have a good time.
"You don't need to blow all your energy in the preliminary competition," he said. "I knew I only needed to make it in the top 10 the first day to earn a place in the finals. I placed eighth. I knew I was in. I conserved energy for the next day and focused on having fun."
Burton was considered an underdog going into the finals due to it being his first time at this competition and his unremarkable finish during preliminaries. That changed when he dominated challenges during the finals. His feats of strength and endurance throughout the day quickly created buzz from the crowd.
"Nobody was looking at me to win," he said. "Everyone was looking at the previous day's top three spots. Nobody knew who I was. When they posted who the first-place person was going into the last event, they were all asking, 'Who is Andrew Burton?'"
Each of the competition's individual strongman events were firefighter themed. Individual competitions of the finals included an Ambulance Tire Deadlift, Sandbag Carry, Axe Hold and Fire Hydrant Load competition.
Burton was most skilled in the Fire Hydrant Load competition. In this event, competitors place four fire hydrants - weighing 175, 200, 225 and 250 pounds - onto a 4-foot-tall platform. He completed this task in 17 seconds, earning him first place in this event.
The Ambulance Tire Deadlift may be the most grueling of the strongman events. It involves lifting 575 pounds of ambulance tires attached at either end of a long bar. Contestants had 60 seconds to lift this more than a quarter ton of weight as many times as possible. Burton completed 16 repetitions in the allotted time, placing him second in the event.
He placed third in the Axe Hold category. In this event, competitors held 25-pound axes straight out to either side of the body as long as possible.
The Sandbag Carry was the only event in the finals where Burton did not rank in the top three competitors. A timed event, the firefighters were required to carry three sandbags, weighing 220, 250 and 300 pounds, at the same time for 40 feet. Burton placed a respectable fifth place in this contest.
Combined, these individual placements earned him the title as the 2023 World's Strongest Firefighter. According to online fitness magazine BarBend, coefficient percentages were used to provide balanced weights and scoring of the competitors. This process of scoring allows competitors to be judged on overall performance and strength.
Three divisions were represented at the World's Strongest Firefighter strongman competition. The men's open, which Burton competed in, had 100 competitors. Each contestant weighed 231.8 pounds or more. The men's middleweight class was for those less than 231.8 pounds, and a single weight class was open to women.
Burton has competed in more than 10 strongman competitions, placing first in events sponsored by the Strongman Corporation and United States Strongman, both of which specialize in promoting strongman sporting events. However, he has not been able to attend nationals for these federations because of work obligations.
"I was bummed out I wasn't able to compete (at the national level of these strongman events)," Burton said. "When I learned of World's Strongest Firefighter Competition that was made up of only firefighters from around the world, I told myself I had to compete. I made sure I could get the time off, then started prepping for the challenges."
Training is a major component in Burton's life. While becoming interested in strongman competitions more than two years ago, he began power lifting in high school. He always dedicated himself to keeping his body in shape. As a firefighter, he maintains physical conditioning standards stipulated by his department.
"I have always wanted to maintain a high level of fitness," Burton said. "I feel like it is part of our job as firefighters. The competition showcases how strong, quick and athletic firefighters are."
The 315-pound athlete trains four to six days a week to maintain his physique. Typical training sessions last an hour and a half to two hours. While testing his strength, the firefighter contest also required Burton to emphasize endurance and conditioning training.
"The weight during the firefighter competition was less than what I am used to at other strongman events," Burton said. "The firefighter competition required me to be able to move quickly against athletes who were smaller than I am. Training included lighter repetitions with a lot of cardio in mind."
For the World's Strongest Firefighter event, Burton needed to trim weight. However, his workout routine still required him to consume 4,500 calories a day.
Calorie intake and types of training fluctuate depending on the needs of each competition. In other competitions, Burton's diet has included consuming up to 9,000 calories daily.
As an amateur strongman, he plans to compete in this year's Strongman Corporation and United States Strongman national events and earn a slot on the professional circuit.
"The intent is to continue to a much higher level," Burton said. "My wife and I love to travel. I want to compete in the World Strongman Championship. They travel to different countries to compete. The Strongman Champions League are the ones seen on ESPN."
A life of service
Burton is currently a firefighter for the city of Rockwall, Texas. He has been a firefighter for more than 10 years. In addition to being a trained firefighter, he is a certified paramedic.
"I went to school to become a fireman," he said. "I always knew I wanted to help people. I originally thought I wanted to be a police officer, but I found firefighting and the medical side of that profession thrilling. After finishing firefighting school, I went on to become a certified paramedic."
Burton's firefighting and medical training took more than a year and a half to complete. As a paramedic, he can give advanced lifesaving treatments to those in his care, including patients with traumatic injuries or needing restricted medications.
Smaller fire departments hold a special place in Burton's heart. As a fireman for the Rockwall Fire Department, Burton feels he is giving the best service he can to his community.
"I never wanted to get lost in the numbers," Burton said. "At Rockwall, I help the department grow. The opportunity to grow and develop the department's priorities, tactics and all the other things within a department is important to me. I want to have a hand at building a department that has my signature on it."
Burton attributes many of his positive character traits and leadership skills to the Boy Scouts of America. He is among a select few who have attained the coveted rank of Eagle Scout. Other Eagle Scouts include astronaut Neil Armstrong, film director Steven Spielberg, President Gerald Ford and business leader Sam Walton.
"I was extremely happy when I became an Eagle Scout," Burton said. "It was a long process. The longest thing I had ever committed to at that point in time. It allowed me an opportunity to go out in the woods, away from all the concrete. That's where I wanted to live."
As a scout, Burton, a Chickasaw citizen, developed a "can do" attitude and learned the concepts of servant leadership, selflessness, honesty, integrity and teamwork - all core values shared with other Chickasaw people and Chickasaw Nation employees.
"Scouting influenced me to go into public service," Burton said. "That's where it really began for me. Scouting allowed me to realize that I enjoy coming together with a group of people and committing to things that are larger than just one individual. That is the way I want to live my life."
Burton grew up in Sulphur Springs, Texas. He has been married nearly 10 years to his wife, Taylor. He receives his Chickasaw heritage from his mother's side of the family. Historically, his Chickasaw family lived in Grady County, Oklahoma.
"I have always been proud of my Chickasaw heritage," Burton said. "I love everything Chickasaw. To be part of a people that are so resilient makes me proud. I love sharing stories with another Chickasaw."