Fighting fires provided all the training one California IAFF member needed to compete on national television.
Thomas Kofron, a member of CAL FIRE Local 2881, continues to advance on American Ninja Warrior, a television reality show where participants race to complete a physically demanding obstacle course that requires speed, strength and dexterity.
Kofron admits he was initially reluctant to appear on national television.
“For years, my friends said, ‘You need to try out for the show,’ but I wasn’t interested,” Kofron says. “But I put together a video application and it worked.”
He made it past the Los Angeles City qualifying round and recently competed in the city finals, which airs July 16 on NBC. If he places well enough in the city finals, he will go on to Las Vegas for the national finals and compete with 90 others for the $1 million prize.
Kofron played well for the cameras, donning a baseball cap while completing the course as casually as if he were working out in his backyard. Each step in the obstacle course requires the athletic ability to coordinate jumps and the strength to grasp a series of suspended rings. Those who finish the course scale a steep ramp and ring a buzzer.
The physical demands of firefighting prepared him well for the competition. And working a long shift with limited sleep served as preparation for extended hours spent on the production set.
“Taping the show lasted all night long,” he says. “I didn’t leave the studio until 7:00 a.m.”
Kofron, who worked the devastating Thomas Fire in southern California last December that burned more than 200,000 acres and destroyed 1,063 structures in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, included video footage from the wildfire in his audition video.
That caught the attention of the show’s production staff. “It was a tough experience, but it helped show what the community went through,” Kofron explains. When the local water source shut down, he used bottled water and orange juice, the only available liquids, to fight the flames.
While his reality television career may only last a short time, Kofron’s dedication to the fire service is a lifelong commitment.
“I want to keep growing as a fire fighter and pass on what I learn to the new guys,” he says. “I know it’s dangerous but I love the job. If you’re going to do something for 30 years, you better enjoy doing it.”